Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Schoolteachers Get Summary Judgment

Yesterday I was telling you about my legal strategy: how it was almost impossible to sue the University for kicking me out of the Education program, because the courts give deference to the University's own internal disciplinary procedures...but they were vulnerable for the way they kicked me out of the Teaching Practicum, because they bypassed their standard practises by convincing the Principal of Gordon Bell to use her emergency powers, which gave me no right of appeal.

Even though I had no right to defend myself, the University still needed the Principal to write a list of reasons why she was having me removed. This was a last-minute thing: actually, she didn't want to put it in writing, but the University insisted. So this what she wrote:

As a follow-up to the documentation and our conversations about our concerns with Mr. M. Green, we are requesting that he do his student teaching block in another location/school. The reasons for our request are stated in the meeting summary and include:
  • refusing to submit lesson plans in any recognised standard format
  • refusing to state or accept that a lesson plan involved more than a "topic"
  • refusing to follow teacher directions related to planning of lessons, lesson content and disciplinary issues with students
  • level of agitation and confrontation with staff: pacing the room while talking very loudly (when asked to plan lessons and stick to the curricular topics), leaving the classroom when he did not get exactly what he wanted, stating that things will only be done "on his terms" and "I trust no one, I trust myself"
  • aggressively confronting and touching students
  • students, in Grade 11 and 12,, asking the teacher to please re-teach or teach the lessons due to the lack of clarity and refusal to answer question
  • apprehension stated about his erratic behavior by both teachers and students
As I explained yesterday, I never got to see this list until six months later, when I got it via the Freedom of Information Act. So I sued the University and the Principal for conspiracy to injure; and, based on the list above and the notes put together by the classroom teacher, I also sued the Principal and the teacher for defamation.


It's true that I never handed in lesson plans. But no one ever asked me for lesson plans. So I don't think it was fair for the principal to say I "refused" to hand in lesson plans. I even file a letter with the Court from my Faculty Advisor, where it stated that no lesson plans were due until November 23rd. I was kicked out on the 21st. But none of this helped me.

And "refusing to follow teacher directions with respect to disciplinary issues"...aggressively confronting and touching students"? This was based on a single incident where a kid was playing loud music on his Ipod and I asked him to turn it off. The classroom teacher reported that when the kid turned away, I tapped him on the shoulder. (In a separate fax to the University, the Principal reported that I actually "grabbed" the student!) This is the sole basis for "aggressive and confrontational". And there was no documentation or evidence of any kind that I was ever given any instruction about how to handle this kind of situation, let alone that I "refused to follow" such instruction.

I think that's defamation.

But there is a way out of defamation: it's called "qualified privilege". It applies to situations where an employer or supervisor is required, as part of his duties, to evaluate and comment on an employee's performance. And it clearly applies in this situation. But as opposed to "absolute privilege" (which kicks in when the complaint is made as part of a statutorily-sanctioned disciplinary process"), qualified privilege is lost if the statements were made maliciously. And that would be the basis of the schoolteachers defence.

The schoolteachers moved for Summary Judgment, dismissing my claim. They relied on two grounds:

1. That the statements were made under qualified privilege, and I had no proof of malice.
2. That the alleged conspiracy was done for legitimate purposes, and I had no proof that it was carried out for the purpose of causing me harm.

The rules of Summary Judgement are simple in theory. My Statement of Claim alleges certain actions on their part. They issue a Statement of Defence, denying those claim. In a Summary Judgment motion, they get to say: "We didn't do it...and here is our evidence". (That's called the "first-stage onus".) If they meet that requirement, then the onus shifts to me...and I have to say, "yes you did, and here is my evidence".

On Summary Judgment, the Judge isn't supposed to decide whose evidence he believes. He is only supposed to look at the evidence and see if there is any case at all to be argued. If I have no evidence, he can throw me out. (That's assuming the Schoolteachers had enough evidence to meet their first-stage onus.)

The Schoolteachers had nothing! They swore affidavits stating that whatever statements they made were without malice, and that they had not conspired with anyone to do me harm! No court in Canada has ever granted summary judgment on the basis of what they call "bald assertions and self-serving affidavits".

Until now.

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