Thursday, August 16, 2007

Quebec Superior Court challenges criminal background checks for teachers

Schools across the continent have adopted policies to have criminal background checks for their teachers. This policy is designed to protect students and keep schools safe.

A man applies for a teaching position in Montreal. The application form asks if he has a criminal background. He fails to mention the fact that he has just spent 7 years in jail for killing his wife. The school is happy with his job performance until they discover his criminal record. He is immediately fired. The union files a grievance. The Quebec Superior Court upholds a ruling by the Human Rights Council that the skill must give the teacher his job back. Their reasoning is that the criminal conviction was in no way a factor in his ability to perform his job. They sight the details of his conviction that he is not a risk to re-offend and posses no risk to the students. Quebec law makes it illegal to refuse to hire someone because they have a criminal record, if it is not a factor in their ability to perform the job.

There are two very dangerous precedences that could come out of this ruling. The court is establishing that it is OK to lie on a job application if it does not affect their ability to perform the job. These factors may not be significant in determining if a person is qualified. They could be significant when a manager is making a final decision between 2 or more applicants. If a person gets hired based on the law they have no fear of being fired when the lie is finally uncovered. This hurts honest job seekers. Nothing good can come out of this reasoning.

Schools have a responsibility to protect the safety of their students. The burden is now being placed on the principals to not only establish if an applicant has a criminal record but if the crime will effect the potential teachers job performance. They must take a detailed look at the individual details of the crime to determine if they pose a threat to students. Being a murderer is not enough to disqualify them from the application process. A wrong decision will either result in unnecessary danger to students or a law suit against the principal.

Hopefully this ruling will be appealed and struck down by the Supreme Court.

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