Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation
District 16 York Region

Boundaries Issues

Key Points for OSSTF Members

Boundaries must exist in any professional relationship. Because teachers are deemed to be in positions of power and influence over students, and care about meeting the needs of those students, individuals may be at risk of getting into trouble over boundary violations.  This resource points out the vulnerability of OSSTF members with respect to boundary violations as they perform the duties of their positions.

We must support students in a caring, respectful, yet appropriately professional manner. Dependency of the student is to be expected and never exploited. However, in certain cases the boundaries can become blurred or ambiguous to members.

The spectrum of violations can be regarded as a "slippery slope". Common cases include:

  • increasing duration of appointment times
  • a personal relationship that the educator would hesitate to fully admit to with his/her own family or friends
  • moving from meeting in a school classroom to meeting at off-school locations
  • excessive self-disclosure about the educator's personal life
  • personal comments about a student's dress or appearance that may lead to sexual overtones or even to "grooming" a student for future sexual behaviour

Consequences to a member who is accused may include one or more of the following:

  • suspension with or without pay while the matter is being investigated
  • great damage to the member's own marriage, family and reputation
  • reporting to and subsequent investigation and/or action by outside agencies such as Children's Aid, the College of Teachers or another professional college
  • discipline from the employer, ranging from a letter of reprimand to dismissal
  • for serious cases, police charges

Members should avoid:

  • making comments to students of a personal nature
  • making comments to students of an inappropriate nature
  • sending emails to students
  • giving students gifts
  • sending emails, letters or notes or making telephone calls of a personal nature to students
  • seeing students in private or isolated situations (meet in a classroom with the door open) physical contact that may be misconstrued to be of a sexual nature (eg patting, hugging)
  • inviting students to their homes

If you are accused, say nothing and call OSSTF immediately. OSSTF assistance will be provided. Grievances will be launched if discipline is excessive and legal assistance may be provided on a case by case basis.

For more information or clarification contact the District 16 office.