Ontario teacher's suspension reduced after physical altercation with student

Educator shook eight-year-old after lifting him: School board

Ontario teacher's suspension reduced after physical altercation with student

An Ontario teacher’s 10-day suspension was reduced because it was based on a level of misconduct that was not proved in related legal proceedings.

Ian Marquis was an elementary school teacher for the Toronto District School Board, hired by the board in 2001.

On May 15, 2015, Marquis was supervising students during the afternoon recess. At the end of the recess, students lined up at the door to go back inside the school, as usual. However, one particular student, who had being playing with a ball, continued to do so as the others lined up.

Marquis called out to the student multiple times to pick up the ball and get in line. After the student failed to comply, he approached the student — who was eight years old — and asked for the ball. When the student didn’t immediately give it to him, Marquis grabbed at the ball to take it away.

According to Marquis, he made incidental contact with the student as he tried to grab the ball. However, the student and another student claimed he picked the student off the ground and shook him.

As a result of the altercation, Marquis was charged with assault. The Ontario Court of Justice didn’t accept Marquis’ characterization of the physical contact with the student as incidental but found there was no evidence that he shook the child. The court determined Marquis placed his hands under the student’s arms, picked him up, and lifted him a short distance before taking the ball into the school.

The court found Marquis guilty of assault but noted that Marquis “didn’t go very far across that line” of legally appropriate behaviour for a teacher interacting with a student. Stating that it was “a very brief and minimal factual situation for an assault,” the court granted an absolute discharge.

The TDSB launched its own investigation into the altercation once the legal proceedings were completed. The investigation determined Marquis had lifted the student off the ground and shook him, which was a violation of its policies related to mistreatment and abuse of students. It also found Marquis failed to accept responsibility for his behaviour by continuing to insist he only touched the student incidentally — which also forced the student and the other student who witnessed the incident to go through the ordeal of testifying in the criminal case — and didn’t live up to the Ontario College of Teachers’ ethical standards.

On Dec. 21, 2016, the TDSB suspended Marquis for 10 days, required him to attend anger-management counselling, and review its policies.

The union grieved the suspension, pointing out that the suspension letter stated Marquis had lifted the student and shook him, but it had been established in court that Marquis had not shaken the student, which was the more serious element of the assault.

The arbitrator noted that “any assault or inappropriate use of physical force by a teacher upon a student indisputably constitutes misconduct.” However, not all assaults are “of a similar nature.” Marquis’ behaviour was inappropriate and deserving of discipline, but it was important to note that the court found it didn’t go “far across the line” in terms of seriousness. As a result, the TDSB should not have disciplined Marquis as if he had shaken the student or committed serious assault, said the arbitrator.

“It is the fact that the employer mischaracterized the particular nature of the assault committed by [Marquis] that argues for an alteration in the imposed penalty,” said the arbitrator. “Given that the 10-day suspension was ostensibly predicated on this rather significant mischaracterization of [Marquis’] misconduct, it would not be appropriate to affirm the quantum of the penalty issued.”

The arbitrator reduced the suspension to five days and ordered the TDSB to compensate Marquis for the other five days of the original suspension.

 

Reference: Toronto District School Board and Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario. Brian Sheehan — arbitrator. Kathleen Tate for employer. Mark Wright for employee. Jan. 23, 2019. 2019 CanLII 28245 (Ont. Arb.).

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