Former Ontario high school principal pleads guilty in test-tampering case

A former Ontario high school principal has pleaded guilty to professional misconduct after tampering with a standardized provincial literacy test. File / Getty Images

TORONTO — A former Ontario high school principal pleaded guilty on Friday to professional misconduct after tampering with a standardized provincial literacy test.

Christine Vellinga admitted in an agreed statement of facts with the Ontario College of Teachers that she went though student booklets after the test in March 2016 to see who hadn’t completed the work.

The college heard that in total, 21 students were then called back in to complete unfinished portions of the test or an accompanying questionnaire.

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“(Vellinga) recognizes the serious nature of her breach and sincerely regrets her actions and the consequences of her actions on the students staff and board,” Vellinga’s lawyer, Kim Patenaude, told the college disciplinary committee hearing the case on Friday.

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“She was honest, upfront and forthcoming (throughout the investigation) admitting her actions and taking full responsibility,” Patenaude added.

Vellinga was responsible for administering the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test to about 170 students at her Bradford, Ont., school that year, the committee heard.

After the test, Vellinga leafed through one student’s answer booklet, trying to find loose multiple choice and questionnaire pages.

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Vellinga saw the student had left some questions unanswered and began looking through other students’ booklets for unfinished tests, instructing her acting vice-principal and two teachers to do the same.

Vellinga identified which unfinished tests belonged to which students by cross-referencing bar codes on the booklet with a master list of names, the committee heard. She then had the school secretary call students back in to complete the test, in some cases calling their homes or their parents’ cellphones.

The 21 students who came back to school were led to an office area where they were each instructed to finish specific parts of the test. Vellinga told at least one student, “You were never here,” the committee heard.

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Vellinga was under a “significant amount of work-related stress” in the weeks leading up to the incident, the statement of facts said.

A supply teacher at her school had been charged with assault, and Vellinga had been experiencing problems with a student who had created a public petition and a social media post complaining about her, the statement of facts said.

Vellinga was suspended without pay for 20 days and demoted to vice-principal after allegations of the test tampering surfaced, the committee heard.

Vellinga and the college came to an agreement Friday that she should receive an official reprimand from the college, have her certificate of qualification suspended for six months and complete a course on ethical practices within 90 days of the disciplinary hearing’s decision.


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