Kristin Rushowy, Toronto Star, November 10, 2007
A controversial Peel Region teacher has been stripped of his licence for unprofessional conduct—outside of the classroom.
In a first for the body that oversees Ontario’s teachers, Paul Fromm’s membership in groups that “espouse beliefs and values contrary to the principles of multiculturalism and tolerance”—as well as his presence at white supremacist events—though on his own time, violated the standards expected of teachers.
Neither Fromm’s teaching ability, nor his behaviour in the classroom, were at issue.
“This case is not about (Fromm’s) right to hold political views that are unpopular or to participate in legal political activities,” reads the decision by a disciplinary panel of the Ontario College of Teachers. “It is about whether a teacher who publicly expresses views which are contrary to the values of the profession and the education system and which have a negative impact on the education system, is entitled to be a member of this college.”
Fromm, who was not aware of the ruling when contacted by the Star yesterday, said he’s been “very unfairly treated” by the college and called the decision “an outrage.”
The Canadian Jewish Congress alerted the Peel board about Fromm in the mid-1980s, later providing video evidence of his association with anti-Semitic groups, said chief executive Bernie Farber.
“I really think this is an unprecedented decision,” he said, adding it “speaks to what parents can expect in terms of what kind of teacher is teaching our children . . . (there will be) tolerance and respect both inside and outside the classroom.”
College spokesperson Brian Jamieson said the decision drew on a Supreme Court ruling that “talks about the basic issue that a teacher is a teacher all the time.”
Fired by the Peel public board in 1997, Fromm said the decision sends a clear warning to teachers: “If you have any controversial political views, just shut up. They said it’s not about free speech, but it is.”
Fromm, a high school English teacher, questioned the college’s authority to even hear the case, given it was created after complaints against him were lodged. He said he’ll explore his options, which include appealing or waiting a year to apply for reinstatement, which is rarely granted.
The panel found Fromm was a member and co-founder of organizations that are intolerant, and took part in events organized by the Heritage Front, including a celebration of Adolf Hitler’s birthday.
Fromm said he’s always had a “completely clear conscience” about his outside activities and that his views are legal.