The Prime of Mr Jacques Tremblay

By Michelle Martin
Published October 11, 2011

I've been reading another of my favourite novels in the newspaper headlines again.

One of the real pleasures of Muriel Spark's prose in her perfect novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is the irony that drips out of almost every sentence spoken by the main character, as she pontificates in front of a captive (in the true sense of the word) audience of 1930s schoolgirls about Goodness, Truth and Beauty; including but not limited to the renunciations she has made to dedicate the prime of her life to her students, the wonderful efficiencies of the Hitler and Mussolini administrations, the great love affair of her youth, and the correct distance from the sill to open a window - more than six inches being vulgar.

Throughout the novel, her lack of self-awareness in combination with a self-dramatising temperament have seen her groom her favourite pupils as the "crème de la crème". She grooms Sandy for an affair with Mr. Lloyd, the art teacher, so she can enjoy it by proxy.

She grooms Joyce Emily to run away to Spain to volunteer for Franco's army, where she is killed in an accident before seeing any action. This last event is what ultimately does her career in, when Sandy (who had the affair with Mr. Lloyd) finally betrays to the administration that Miss Brodie has been teaching fascism.

I thought of Jean Brodie last weekend when I read about the woefully inadequate steps taken by Ontario College of Teachers disciplinary committee in far too many hearings, and was reminded of Headmistress Mackay, who couldn't seem to get to the truth of what was going on in Miss Brodie's classroom:

'I'm afraid she put ideas into your young heads,' said Miss Mackay with a knowing twinkle, which meant that now Sandy had left school it would be alright to talk about Miss Brodie's goings on.

'Yes, lot's of ideas,' Sandy said.

'I wish I knew what some of them were,' said Miss Mackay, slumping a little and looking genuinely worried. 'Because it is still going on, I mean class after class, and now she has formed a new set, and they are so out of key with the rest of the school, Miss Brodie's set.'

-- Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

The Star's Kevin Donovan has reported on troubling cases in which the college has taken a surprisingly lenient approach with teachers found to have engaged in conduct that most parents would find appalling.

-- The Toronto Star, Oct. 4, 2011

Also troubling is the discovery that the chair of the disciplinary committee, Jacques Tremblay, is the co-author of a book for and about teenagers that The Star describes in the same article as crossing "into the language of soft porn."

This, from the Ontario College of Teachers web site:

Jacques Tremblay, OCT has today offered to resign from his duties as a Council member and chair of the College's Discipline Committee.

He made this choice out of concern that the public perception of matters raised today in the media could lead to an erosion of the public's confidence in the College and its work.

So Mr. Tremblay has hanged himself "on a gibbet of his own devising," as we learn Miss Brodie's infamous ancestor, Willie Brodie (cabinet maker, designer of gibbets, and night burglar) did when she recounts his tale and prefigures her own demise.

Why has this all taken so long to come to light? The scariest thing for parents is the lifelong harm some of these teachers have caused, while administrations and disciplinary committees have dithered over what sanctions, if any, they should face:

'It has been suggested again that I should apply for a post at one of the progressive schools, where my methods would be more suited to the system than they are at Blaine...I shall remain at this education factory. There must needs be a leaven in the lump. Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life.'

-- Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Michelle Martin lives in Hamilton. The opinions she expresses in Raise the Hammer are her own.


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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted October 11, 2011 at 12:31:25

I'm glad you brought this issue forward, Michelle, as I too was very interested in this story when it broke last week. Although, I do have rather opposing views, as I believe the series of stories by Kevin Donovan was a prurient, hypocritical, and vexatious witch hunt.

I certainly won't defend any of the creepy, creepy guys that were profiled by Donovan, but I do think the stories were short on substance and heavy on sexy excerpts and demagogic moralizing.

And as to Jacques Tremblay's resignation? I think it's truly sad that someone would have to resign for a previously unknown, trashy book they co-wrote once upon a time, as though it was some confession of impropriety. To paraphrase the letter I wrote the Toronto Star last week: "Thanks for protecting our moral purity by gleefully playing the role of Thought Police."

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 11, 2011 at 13:30:04

I'm generally disappointed in the quality of the reporting on this issue. It seemed to be just about finding and throwing out as many disembodied lurid details and random tidbits of salaciousness as possible, rather than actually actually investigating the issues.

What sparked all this anyways? The reporting, not the scandals themselves - I mean, this obviously has been going on for many years. What event pushed it over tipping-point to bring in the press?

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By Door Nail (anonymous) | Posted October 11, 2011 at 14:12:59

A teacher speaks out about the outrageous abuse of children in classrooms in Ontario, the whistle blower is forced out of teaching, fined, suspended for two years, and degraded by non other then Jacques Tremblay a pornographer and head of diciplining teachers in the Province of Ontario. Tremblay was not only endorsed once by his teachers' Union, the pornographer was endorsed twice to hold the position on the Ontario College of Teachers.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted October 11, 2011 at 14:39:35

What event pushed it over tipping-point to bring in the press?

Judging from the number of stories Donovan got out of this issue, and the lengths he must have had to go to find some of these teachers, I imagine a tip led the powers-that-be at the Star to assign their most sensationalist reporter to do a no-holds-barred series on the topic.

Let's remember that Donovan is no stranger to this type of blood-letting exposé: he was also behind the series of 2007 stories on the high costs of charity administration, commission-canvassing, and charitable donation fraud. That got a lot of play at the time too, and it even took aim at big players like Sick Kids and World Vision (who took a reputational hit).

Above all, I'm sure it's the type of reporting that sells papers--it's got us talking, no?

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted October 12, 2011 at 00:08:44 in reply to Comment 70424

The decisions are regularly published in a special section of the College of Teachers periodical (I've seen them, it comes to my house because I'm married to a teacher), so not a lot of digging required, even if the complaints against them hold up.

In fact, hearing results are published online. Here is the list of decisions concerning teachers who were not identified.

Comment edited by Michelle Martin on 2011-10-12 00:23:33

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By Anonymously becuase I would be kicked ou (anonymous) | Posted October 12, 2011 at 09:14:57

What the College of Teachers Don't Tell you, or hide it behind Closed Doors:

Ten Reasons to Be concerned about Ontario Education.
# 1 
Families claim bullying, sue board 

Four families who say their children were bullied and abused by teachers at Bluewater schools -and in one case also by students -have filed multimillion dollar lawsuits.
The similar statements of claim, for a total of $35 million in damages, were all filed Aug. 4 at Ontario Superior Court in Owen Sound. They allege the four students were repeatedly harassed, tormented and physically and emotionally abused.
Each child and each set of parents is claiming more than $4 million in total damages against each defendant. 
The Sun Times has chosen not to publish the names of the students, teachers, board officials and others named in the suits to protect the alleged victims.
The allegations date back to the 2007 school year at Holland- Chatsworth school, 2008 at Hanover Heights school and 2009 at St. Vincent-Euphrasia in Meaford.

# 2
School bullying still not a priority for trustees: MacDonald
Last Updated: June 29, 2010 8:09pm

School’s out but Corina Morrison, co-founder of the London Anti-Bullying Coalition (London ABC), is urging parents to do their homework in advance of fall trustee elections.
“What I want parents to do is educate themselves. I want them to be more aware of what’s going on out there in their school system … and I want parents to demand more of their trustees,” Morrison told me over the phone Monday.
Morrison often gives parents looking for help a crash course in School System 101 — who to talk to, how to talk to them, who their trustee is and how the trustee might help. 
She talks about the difference between conflict — ordinary disagreements and misunderstandings that crop up between people — and bullying, a conscious and repeated use of power over someone in a weaker position for the bully’s personal satisfaction.

# 3 
Boy's death raises spectre of bullying 
BRYTEN BROWN: Visitors to a Facebook tribute page say he was a victim of bullies at school
By JENNIFER O'BRIEN, The London Free Press
Last Updated: May 12, 2010 3:30pm

Bryten Brown died on Saturday. His family is asking that donations be directed to the London Anti-Bullying Coalition. 
The brutality of bullying has surfaced, with the grieving family of a 13-year-old St. Thomas boy directing memorial donations to an anti-bullying group….

# 4 
Ottawa school defends response to alleged sex attack
Last Updated: Saturday, May 29, 2010 | 4:40 PM ET CBC News 
Officials of Ashbury College, above, deny allegations that teachers inappropriately handled a student's sexual assault complaint. (CBC) 
Ottawa's Ashbury College says its teachers responded in a timely and appropriate manner to an alleged assault on a school trip three years ago.
Three students of the private school, as well as the school's headmaster and four teachers, were named in a lawsuit filed by a 16-year-old boy and his parents in November 2009.
The lawsuit states that in 2007, two students allegedly pinned the youth to his bed, while another sexually assaulted him and a fourth allegedly videotaped the attack while on a school trip in Boston, Mass.
No further details of the alleged assault have been released.
A statement of defence filed in Ontario's Superior Court of Justice by the school Friday afternoon defends its teachers, saying they handled the incident in a professional manner, co-operating fully with police.

# 5 Decision Summary
As published in the September 2003 edition of Professionally Speaking.
Member's Name: George Fred Abdallah
Registration Number: 257688
Decision: Suspended with Conditions on Certificates 

Abdallah pleaded guilty to all the allegations except those charging that he engaged in conduct that would reasonably be regarded by members as disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional and that he engaged in conduct unbecoming a member.
The panel found that Abdallah had been convicted of sexual assault and unlawful confinement and that he had been sentenced to serve a total of two years less a day in prison. The charges involved two adult women who had no connection with the school system.
The panel in its decision noted that the presiding judge in the criminal case: did not accept as true Abdallah's account that he had done nothing against the consent of the complainants; and that the judge found that Abdallah showed no remorse.

# 6 
Decision Summary
As published in the December 2005 edition of Professionally Speaking.
Member: Julia Ann Webb 
Registration Number: 252725 
Decision: Certificates of Qualification and Registration Suspended with Conditions, Reprimand and Counselling 

Webb faced six allegations of professional misconduct related to a sexual relationship with an 18-year-old male high school student. …

On June 25, 1994, Webb and the student had sexual intercourse following a party. 
Webb continued the relationship, taking the student for drives in her car and engaging in at least one other act of sexual intercourse in mid-July 1994, following which the relationship between them terminated. …

# 7 
Canada not such a nice place to grow up?" - The WHO ranks Canada in the bottom third of developing countries when it comes to bullying!
International & Canadian Experts Available for Interviews 
TORONTO, May 26 /CNW/ - 
May 27th and 28th leading Canadian and International experts will gather
in Hamilton, Ontario at McMaster University, to understand why and
discuss next steps in violence prevention, including: world leading
Canadian research on neuroscience, mental health, interpersonal
relationships, and anti-bullying strategies that span infancy to
In Canadian schools, bullying happens every 7.5 minutes in the playgrounds and every 25 minutes in the classroom. These statistics paint a very alarming and 'un-Canadian' picture of childhood in Canada. Unfortunately, we are not the only ones who are noticing.

# 8 
Principal won't face discipline in feces incident
Published On Tue Jun 19 2007 
Maria Pantalone, a Toronto principal convicted of assault after throwing feces at a child, will not face disciplinary action from the Ontario College of Teachers.
"There's not going to be any hearing," her lawyer, Michael Caroline, said in an interview yesterday. 
The college, the governing body for the province's teachers, normally conducts its own, preliminary investigation after a member is found guilty of an offence to determine if the matter could amount to professional misconduct.
"Neither the Toronto District School Board or the Ontario College of Teachers are proceeding with any disciplinary action," Caroline added. "... Upon reading the reasons of the court, they were satisfied that the requirement of potential danger to students was non-existent."

# 9 
Ontario Teacher Punished for Speaking Out on Reinstated Sexual Offenders

By Patrick B. Craine 
ONTARIO, June 17, 2009 ( – The Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) has taken action against a retired teacher and former OCT Council member after he revealed that the organization habitually reinstates the teaching licenses of convicted sexual offenders.

# 10 
Why Canada can't stop bullies
November 19, 2009 
Noor Javed 

Daniel Sebben was just 13 when the taunts began. Day after day, for the next three years, the Newmarket high school student faced homophobic slurs, insults and verbal abuse from a group of six boys. 
He would come home upset, confused and fearful of what they might do to him the next day, said mom Karen Sebben….

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By Open your Eyes Please, before we do in a (anonymous) | Posted October 12, 2011 at 09:51:03

How many kids have to be taken from the steps of our schools and never seen alive again to demand public accountability?

How many kids have to commit suicide rather then face school yard bullies before we open our eyes?

How many Politicians like the Premiere have to cover the backs of the Ontario College of Teachers before they close down this terrible excuse for Professionalism?

Ever wonder why they have to keep replacing all the College employees?

Ever wonder why the Teacher Unions tell the teachers who to vote for and less then 4% of teachers vote, they are not stupid or are they?

How much money has to be stolen from school boards like the $835,000 in London before some school board over paid administrator is fired for allowing the thefts to go on for years?

"Why has this all taken so long to come to light?" Because at least one pornographers and who else knows determines what is professional, not what is right for kids but what is considered professional....

Can you name one teacher in this province who has her or his door open to a child that has been abused by a teacher? If teachers believe that some how being a teacher is above stupidity, gross ignorance, and sexual abuse, we have lost sight of the real world.

Some teachers do live by a code of Honour.

For the few teacher who:
- take weapons form distraught children,
- listen to abused children and are forced to use Crime Stoppers rather then School Administrators to report the filth,
- give up their jobs to protect children from school administrators who prefer to hide the sexual abuse of children......

The Ontario College of Teachers was set up to do nothing more then Public Relations hence their magazine is called "Professional Speaking."

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By Teacher (anonymous) | Posted October 13, 2011 at 09:32:13

A retired Ontario teacher and former judge was asked by the Ontario Liberal Government as early as 2004 to report on the outrageous abuse of children by members of the Ontario College of Teachers Council. The Liberal Government's appointed representatives on the College of Teachers lead by the Teachers' Union Representative Jacques Tremblay proceeded to silence the report by; fining the former member of the College Council, erroneously reporting the suspension of the author from teaching, and publishing in the notorious Blue Pages of the College of Teachers using the same prose similarly found in Tremblays pornography. The Practice of allowing repeat sex offenders and abusive criminals to teach in Ontario continues and now supplemented by Tremblay's “educational” pornography.

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