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Professional Misconduct: How does the Discipline Committee determine penalties?

In a previous article, we explained how the Complaints Committee determines appropriate outcomes for complaints against members, and when these complaints may lead to verbal cautions. In more serious cases of professional misconduct, the matter is referred to the Discipline Committee for a hearing. The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether or not the member is guilty of professional misconduct.

How does the College receive information about professional misconduct?

The College receives information regarding possible professional misconduct from a variety of sources. These include complaints from members of the public and reporting required from employers. Complaints or employer reports related to professional misconduct are investigated by the College. The College’s Complaints Committee considers the facts gathered during the investigation and may refer the matter to the Discipline Committee for a hearing.

Discipline Hearings

Notices of discipline hearings are posted on the College’s website and the public register advising the public about the allegations and the date and time for the hearing. In any case where criminal charges have been laid, and the College knows about them, the College puts information regarding the charges on the public register immediately.

Hearings into cases of alleged professional misconduct are open to the public and conducted by a three-member panel of the Discipline Committee. Panels must include both RECEs and members of the public.

How does the Discipline Committee determine penalties for professional misconduct?

If the Discipline Committee panel finds that an RECE committed an act of professional misconduct, the actions that can be taken are set out in the Early Childhood Educators Act. These include:

  • reprimanding an RECE
  •  imposing terms, conditions or limitations on their Certificate of Registration; and
  • suspending or revoking the RECE’s certificate of registration.

Members of the Discipline Committee receive ongoing training on issues including penalty determination, and have the benefit of advice from their own legal counsel.

In arriving at a penalty, panels are trained to consider public protection as the primary concern. Other factors that may be considered when determining penalty include:

  • influencing the future behaviour of the RECE involved (specific deterrence);
  • influencing the future behaviour of  the profession generally (general deterrence);
  • the message being sent to parents and employers; and
  • where appropriate, providing the RECE with the tools to be able to return to practise the profession safely and ethically (rehabilitation).

Panels also take into consideration both aggravating and mitigating factors specific to the case and the RECE. Aggravating factors are those that make the behavior worse, while mitigating factors might reduce a penalty.

Impact of Penalities

Suspending a Certificate of Registration is a significant penalty because it takes away the ability to practise the profession for a period of time. Conditions such as mandatory education, mentoring or supervision are intended to address  gaps in the RECE’s knowledge, skills or judgment so that, before and when they return to work, they have the opportunity to gain insight and obtain meaningful feedback in how to adopt successful strategies in and changes to their practice.

What happens after the hearing?

At the end of the hearing, the College sends the decision to the individual who filed the complaint or, in the case of a report filed by an employer, to the employer who filed the report as well as the RECE’s current employer. In addition, the College publishes decisions of the Discipline Committee on its website and in its monthly publication, Connexions. Decisions are also entered in the Canadian Legal Information Institute’s database, which is accessible to the public. A permanent notation of the panel’s decision and reasons will also appear with the member’s record on the College’s public register, including any term of mentoring, supervision or other monitoring.

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