Effective date

The new code of professional conduct will be in effect on January 1, 2023.

Overview

The code of professional conduct is a set of expectations that certificated teachers and teacher leaders, like principals and superintendents, must follow. It outlines the overarching ethical principles that guide everyone in the profession.

The new code took effect on January 1, 2023. Alberta’s government developed a new code of professional conduct because there were currently two different codes being followed by distinct groups of teachers. This means the rules and expectations vary depending where a teacher or teacher leader is employed.

The government unified the two previous codes to create one single code for everyone. A new unified code means teachers and teacher leaders can be confident all of their colleagues across the province will be subject to the same rules, and parents will know there is a consistent high standard of conduct for the profession.

Alberta’s teachers are passionate about their work and uphold a high degree of professionalism; the new code contains principles that are reasonable and expectations that most teachers follow in their daily lives. It is important for the code to reflect the needs and perspectives of Alberta’s teachers and teacher leaders, as well as the parents and students they serve, and that is exactly what we have worked to achieve. The new code does not prejudicially affect any right or privilege guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or any constitutionally protected religious instruction right or privilege under section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867.

Previous codes of conduct

Previously, there was one code for members of the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA), which includes teachers who work for public school authorities, separate or Catholic school authorities and francophone school authorities. This code is available on the ATA’s website (PDF, 58 KB).

The other code was for teachers and teacher leaders who are not members of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, which includes many of those employed in First Nations schools, public charter schools and independent schools. This code was called Professional Conduct Requirements for Teachers and Teacher Leaders (PDF, 498 KB). This code also applied to teacher leaders employed as superintendents, deputy superintendents in school boards and other certificated central office leaders who are not active members of the ATA.

Development

The process of developing the new code began early in 2022. The Legislative Assembly of Alberta passed Bill 15, the Education (Reforming Teacher Profession Discipline) Amendment Act in May 2022. This legislation required a new code of conduct to be in place on January 1, 2023.

The legislation also required the creation of the Alberta Teaching Profession Commission, which is responsible for investigating allegations that a teacher has broken the code. The commission became operational on January 1, 2023. It ensures complaints of unprofessional conduct are handled fairly, effectively and transparently.

To help inform the development of the new code of conduct, the government engaged a wide variety of people and organizations. The government used an online survey to gather people’s perspectives. Respondents were asked which parts of the old codes of conduct were working well and what other concepts should appear in the new code of conduct.

Key changes

The new code sets requirements or expectations outlining how teachers and teacher leaders are expected to treat:

  • their students;
  • the parents and guardians of their students; and
  • other teachers and teacher leaders; as well as
  • general responsibilities to the teaching profession as a whole.

Many parts of the new code have been carried over from, or are based on, parts of the previous two codes. As before, the new code contains principles that are reasonable, and expectations that most teachers typically follow in their daily lives. However, the previous codes did not explicitly cover some important items. Click on the sections below to learn more.

  • More emphasis on student safety

    In developing the new code, the government examined codes and standards in other parts of Canada. As a result, the new code contains new provisions that emphasize the importance of student safety and well-being.

    • The following provision is similar to wording in Ontario’s Professional Misconduct Regulation:
      • The teacher or teacher leader is required not to:
        • intentionally harm a student verbally, psychologically or emotionally
        • harm a student physically or sexually
    • The following provision is similar to standards and regulations in OntarioBritish Columbia and Saskatchewan:
      • The teacher or teacher leader is required not to:
        • intentionally engage in an illegal activity that may cause a student to be put at or to remain at risk of harm
        • knowingly encourage or enable a student to engage in illegal activity or other activities that may cause a student to be put at or to remain at risk of harm
    • The following provision is similar to requirements in British Columbia:
      • The teacher or teacher leader is required, in addition to other legislated reporting requirements, to report to the Commissioner, the conduct of another teacher or teacher leader who is alleged to cause or have caused physical, psychological, emotional or sexual harm or abuse to a student.
  • Preventing exploitation

    The following provision is similar to what appears in the code of ethics established by the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation:

    • The teacher or teacher may not teach or lead in a manner that exploits their relationship with students, while in a position of authority, for ideological, material, or other advantage.

    “Ideological advantage” means perspectives taught to students in a biased manner with the intent to take advantage of a student’s uninformed or under-informed opinions, but does not include programs of study established under the act.

  • Diversity and inclusion

    Two other provisions require teachers to demonstrate respect in a learning environment where students feel welcome, and to respect their basic rights and freedoms. For example, teachers are aware it’s not acceptable to discriminate against students based on their race, religious beliefs, ability and other traits. In fact, this is covered in the Alberta Teachers’ Association’s code of conduct. However, the wording in the new code refers specifically to the rights and freedoms that are enshrined in other legislation, such as the Alberta Human Rights Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    • The teacher or teacher leader shall respect the dignity and rights of all students and persons without prejudice as to the prohibited grounds of discrimination set out in the Alberta Human Rights Act and with regard to rights as provided for in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and be considerate of the circumstances of students and persons.
    • The teacher or teacher leader is required to demonstrate a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment that respects diversity and fosters a sense of belonging, which students are entitled to under the Education Act.
  • Reporting harm to the commissioner

    To further ensure student safety, the new code of professional conduct requires teachers or teacher leaders to notify the Alberta Teaching Profession Commission if another teacher or teacher leader harms a student. Most teachers care deeply about their students and it’s rare for them to be endangered, but when issues do occur, it’s important to notify the authorities so the problem can be addressed.

    Apart from this provision in the code, the Education Act ensures that other key players in the education system have a duty to report to police, including the registrar, the commissioner, superintendents, board chairs, operators of independent schools or early childhood services programs, the executive secretary of the ATA and the executive director of the College of Alberta School Superintendents.

    • The teacher or teacher leader is required, in addition to other legislated reporting requirements, to report to the commissioner, the conduct of another teacher or teacher leader who is alleged to cause or have caused physical, psychological, emotional or sexual harm or abuse to a student.
  • Relationships with parents

    As teachers know, it’s important to have courteous and considerate relationships with parents and guardians. The previous code of professional conduct in the Practice Review of Teachers and Teacher Leaders Regulation had a section about relationships with parents, which has been reworked for the new code.

    Relationships with students’ families must be based on mutual respect, trust and, where necessary, confidentiality, because a healthy working relationship with a students’ family often contributes to the students’ learning and well-being.

    Since teachers are in a unique position where they are responsible for people’s children each day, they are often aware of families’ personal details and circumstances, and they are trusted to exercise a high level of discretion to help families maintain their privacy.

    Additionally, it’s also reasonable to expect that teachers won’t disparage or denigrate parents.

    The new code requires teachers and teacher leaders to:

    • respect parents and be considerate of their circumstances
    • treat information received from and about parents with discretion
    • be respectful in communications with and about parents, and
    • not discuss other students except where the matters being discussed are relevant to their child and then only to the extent that, in the teacher’s or teacher leader’s judgment, is necessary
  • Reporting concerns about a colleague

    In most cases, under both of the previous codes of conduct, a teacher or teacher leader had to first advise their colleague if they wished to raise concerns about that colleague’s professional conduct. This may actually discourage people from raising legitimate concerns because it could lead to a confrontation.

    The new code of conduct allows teachers and teacher leaders, if they wish, to raise their concerns with a supervisor or other appropriate official without having to notify the other teacher first.

Allegations of unprofessional conduct

The Alberta Teaching Profession Commission assumed responsibility for handling complaints of unprofessional conduct beginning January 1, 2023.

For information on how to file a complaint under the code of professional conduct, please see the Conduct and competency complaints page.

Resources

The video below provides an introduction to the new code with answers to 3 main questions:

  • Why is there a new Code of Professional Conduct for Teachers and Teacher Leaders?
  • How was the code made?
  • What parts of the code are new?

This video explains what you can do if you have concerns about a teacher’s professional conduct.

Disclaimer: The information in these videos is current to January 2023, the time of publication. The law is constantly changing with new legislation, amendments to existing legislation, and decisions from the court. In cases of any inconsistency between the information in this video and the Education Act, the Practice Review of Teachers and Teacher Leaders Regulation or the Code of Professional Conduct for Teachers and Teacher Leaders, the legislation will always prevail. These videos are for information only; the Crown, its agents, employees or contractors will not be liable for any damages, direct or indirect, arising out of use of the information in these videos. These videos are not to be used, reproduced, stored or transmitted for commercial purposes without written permission from the Government of Alberta.

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