Marcel Sincraian, a high-school teacher in British Columbia, admitted in October to inappropriate conduct with female students in his math and science classes. He used instant messaging to communicate with them about non-school matters, sometimes on weekends. He photographed the girls, without their knowledge or the consent of their parents. He told some students they were his favourites, and did so in the presence of other students. He gave them letters about his prior romantic relationships.

Editorial

Marcel Sincraian, a high-school teacher in British Columbia, admitted in October to inappropriate conduct with female students in his math and science classes. He used instant messaging to communicate with them about non-school matters, sometimes on weekends. He photographed the girls, without their knowledge or the consent of their parents. He told some students they were his favourites, and did so in the presence of other students. He gave them letters about his prior romantic relationships.

Had Mr. Sincraian been employed in Manitoba, it’s possible his misdeeds would not have been publicly reported by the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, which acts as both a union that represents teachers and the profession’s regulatory body. MTS has previously been criticized for prioritizing the protection of its dues-paying members over the public’s ability to scrutinize specific teachers’ qualifications and disciplinary records.

But because Mr. Sincraian is licensed in B.C., a province with an independent regulatory body that publishes discipline taken against teachers, details of his professional misconduct were available online. These details included an account of administrative action taken against him: a two-month suspension, sessions with a psychologist, and completion of a course called Reinforcing Respectful Professional Boundaries.

Manitoba teachers could soon be regulated by a system similar to ones that already exist in B.C. and Ontario. This province’s department of education is reviewing different regulatory models with goals that include transparency and accountability, training and certifying members, and maintaining professional standards.

The Manitoba system should be developed with a view to relieving MTS of its intrinsic conflict. The union represents upwards of 16,000 teachers, with services that include providing them with a lawyer when criminally charged. But the union also oversees how, and how much, information about infractions and disciplinary actions is released to the public.

In 2019, the CBC used freedom-of-information requests to learn 20 teachers had been disciplined by Manitoba’s education ministry since 2016, for serious offences such as sexual touching, possession of child pornography, luring a child and sexual assault. These cases were never publicly reported by the province.

The Canadian Centre for Child Protection has publicly called for Manitoba to post the discipline records of teachers online, for the sake of transparency and also to serve as a deterrent.

MTS previously opposed such a change. “We don’t believe making teachers’ disciplinary records (public) would serve the public interest nor that of our members,” president James Bedford said.

Mr. Bedford is entitled to speak about the interest of his union members, but he’s out of touch if he believes it’s not in the public’s interest. Parents in particular want to know whether the teachers entrusted with their children’s care and education have been disciplined for unprofessional conduct.

In addition to parents, many teachers will surely support Manitoba’s push for a regulatory college for their profession, viewing it as a measure to strengthen public confidence and entrench high standards for certification.

Obviously, the teachers who are disciplined — and it should be emphasized that only a tiny minority are found to have engaged in professional misconduct — don’t want this information published, but their desire for secrecy is trumped by the need for the public to know reports of professional misconduct are investigated thoroughly and resolved responsibly.

The Manitoba department of education’s current investigation of regulatory methods should be directed toward crafting a model that is transparent and accountable. The public deserves to know Manitoba school children are in safe places.