Paolo De Buono seems to believe that he can do what he pleases both in the classroom and in his private life without any consequences whatsoever.
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Today, there’s no cost to teachers who push political correctness in and out of the classroom, even if the activism leads to professional misconduct. The Ontario Education Act makes clear in Section 264 that one of the duties of a teacher is “to inculcate by precept… the principles of Judeo-Christian morality and the highest regard for truth, justice, loyalty, love of country, humanity, benevolence, sobriety, industry, frugality, purity, temperance and all other virtues.” The quote may come as a shock to many currently in the teaching profession. There is nothing in the Act about creating “inclusive and equitable” school environments. The is nothing in the Ontario Human Rights Code which trumps the Act.
There have been several court decisions where judges have pointed out in rulings that teachers have positions of trust and confidence. How they behave is important because it has a great deal of influence on their students and the school environment. Both in classroom and in the community, teacher conduct matters. So, when there’s a violation of the standards of the teaching profession either at school or outside the school, teachers have been disciplined, and in some cases, have even lost their jobs.
In Catholic schools, the religious context makes for a higher standard of conduct. The Ontario Separate School system has denominational rights under Section 93 of the 1867 Constitution Act. This means that Separate schools have the right to discipline or dismiss a teacher who chooses to defy Catholic teaching.
Many Catholic teachers have paid a public price when, in their private lives, they have been charged with assault, impaired driving or posting critical comments on social media about colleagues. The unwritten rule is that a teacher is always a teacher even after school or on weekends.
There have been court cases where some restrictions have been put on Charter rights. There are limits to teacher freedom. Take the case of Ross v. New Brunswick School District No. 15 (1996, Supreme Court of Canada): a teacher had made racist and anti-Semitic comments outside the classroom. The high court concluded that even though there was no direct proof of harm done by the statements, the teacher’s actions were deemed to have had a negative impact on the school environment. In short, the words uttered had poisoned the educational atmosphere.
Another case involved the Peel Board of Education v. OSSTF (2002). An arbitration board decision to fire a teacher because of in-class racist activities was upheld. In addition, the Ontario College of Teachers disciplined the teacher by revoking his teaching certificate. The teacher was found to be guilty of professional misconduct.
So, teachers should be cautious about what they say and post on social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, forums, Snapchat and “selfies” to express themselves. Regrettably, some teachers today believe they no longer need to live up to a high standard of conduct.
Now take Toronto Catholic District Catholic School Board (TCDSB) teacher Paolo De Buono who openly Tweets statements that undermine Catholic teaching. Consider this Tweet:
His social media statement publicly defies Catholic teaching. He declares that he would censor Catholic teaching about homosexuality. Even if Cardinal Thomas Collins was a guest in his classroom and quoted the appropriate paragraph 2357 from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Mr. De Buono says he would tell the Cardinal to leave the classroom. This is scandalous. It’s the kind of behaviour that poisons the educational environment. On top of it all, De Buono claims that his opposition comes from his professional responsibility as a member of the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT). Surely, we can assume that there have been complaints filed with the OCT which aren’t as egregious.
In this comment, he questions the Education Act itself by Tweeting: “As a Catholic in Ontario, I can’t believe that there’s a legal duty of teachers (S. 264(1)(c) of the Education Act to ‘inculcate by precept and example respect for religion and the principles of Judaeo-Christian morality.” It looks like Mr. De Buono has not read the law very carefully. Does what he personally believes or doesn’t believe override the Education Act? Also, why teach with the TCDSB if you don’t accept the Catholic curricula teachers are supposed to teach? De Buono has also accused the Board of “systemic homophobia” and written to the Minister of Education Stephen Lecce asking the government to launch an investigation into the matter. He probably doesn’t “believe” that any other opinion on the issue than his own is acceptable. So much for inclusivity! We assume that he also doesn’t believe in the Christian ideal that we are all made in the image and likeness of God…and must all be respected just because of that.
Then there’s this Tweet: “I think that women should be allowed to be priests as well as men. The Catholic Church currently only allows men to be priests. The doctrine is maintained by only men as decision makers.” It appears that De Buono feels qualified and entitled to change Catholic doctrine. How sad for him!
Our final example is this Tweet: “Let’s spend as much time and start now to prepare for Pride month in June 2021 in TCDSB.” A Catholic teacher isn’t hired to do activism work to undermine the very system which employs him.
Mr. De Buono seems to believe that he can do what he pleases both in the classroom and in his private life without any consequences whatsoever. We must legitimately ask, “Does he have the full support of the Parents of the students he teaches? What about the Principal and the Director of education? Does the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association back him up? Why is his conduct beyond scrutiny? Do teachers have a legal and moral duty to set a good example, or not?”
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