The remediation and dismissal of Catholic teachers in Saskatchewan's Catholic separate schools for denominational nonconformity
Donlevy, James Kent
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It was the purpose of this study to investigate the remediation and dismissal of Catholic teachers in Saskatchewan's Catholic schools for reasons of denominational nonconformity. Saskatchewan had, at the time of this study, in November of 1993, twelve Catholic school systems directed by Catholic directors of education. Eight participated fully in this study while two others provided some oral information. The remaining two declined involvement. With the group of eight directors, a descriptive survey approach combined with interviews was employed. The survey data was collected by the use of the Nonconformity Questionnaire (NCQ). The questionnaire was composed of two parts: Part I, demographic data; Part II; questions focusing on actual cases of denominational nonconformity in the areas of Evidence, Procedures, Parties, Sanctions and, Threshold. All eight directors were asked to respond to Part I and the Threshold section but only two of the directors with experience in actual cases were asked to respond to the Evidence, Procedures, Parties and Sanctioning sections. All eight of the directors were interviewed by the writer. The interview of the two directors experienced with actual cases focused on triangulating their oral and NCQ responses and delving into their reasons for their responses. The other six directors, of the group of eight, were interviewed seeking responses to certain questions in order to understand their underlying assumptions and motivations in the area of denominational nonconformity. The study revealed vis-a-vis policies and practices that: 1. Saskatchewan's Catholic directors deal with informal and formal complaints of nonconformity. Both types of complaints were usually lodged by a school administrator or fellow teacher. Informal complaints were investigated and dealt with in an ad hoc manner. Formal complaints were generally dealt with by means of a generic administrative policy. In almost all instances, investigations were carried out by the director of education. The teacher was always confronted with the allegation and given an attempt to deny or confirm the truthfulness of the complaint. If the complaint is denied the matter is closed. If confirmed, the teacher is given an opportunity to recant or change the behaviour. 2. The civil rights of a nonconformist teacher in the procedural stages vary, depending upon the board, but are circumscribed by case law and The Education Act (Sask.). A nonconformist's Canonical procedural rights played little if any role in administrative procedure. 3. In the matter of sanctioning, there was a clear preference for addressing the situation with warnings, giving the nonconformist ample time to reconsider and alter his or her behaviour. The clergy's role in this matter was advisory. It is clear that a school board may make ongoing demands upon the teacher's personal life in order to ensure the teacher's committment to the remediation process. 4. The parties most involved with cases of denominational nonconformity were the teacher's parish priest, the director and school principal. 5. The director's personal threshold of nonconformity depends upon his own moral and religious rectitude as a Catholic and his interpretation of his responsibilities in the faith journey of one who has gone astray from the Church's teachings. 6. There was confusion in the Catholic community regarding objectively nonconformist behaviours in that they were perceived to be matters of conscience and thus subjectively acceptable and, at times, administratively tolerable. The religious or denominational threshold was perceived by some respondents to vary according to the norms within the local Catholic community, the composition of the school board, and the opinion of the local parish priest. 7. The administrative threshold of nonconformity appears to be governed by the frequency, seriousness, and publicity of the nonconformist behaviour circumscribed by the Faith Witness concept. The findings of this research have both positive and negative implications. The unanimous agreement among Saskatchewan's Catholic directors that their treatment of Catholic nonconformist teachers must at least to some degree be governed by a pastoral model of administration bodes well for the considerate treatment of those teachers. On the other hand, the ad hoc manner in which many informal cases are treated and, with one exception, the nonspecific policies in place to deal with cases of nonconformity leave much to be desired in the protection of the legal and canonical rights of the teacher and, perhaps, the protection of the Catholic school boards' power to sanction for denominational nonconformity.