Board Policy 05: Board Members Code of Conduct

Legal References

Education Act: Sections 169.1 Duties and Powers of Boards; Section 207 (2) Open Meetings of Boards; Education Act: Section 209 Declaration; Section 218.1 Duties of Board Members: Section 218.2 Code of Conduct; Section 228 Seat Vacated by Conviction, Absence; Ministry of Education Guideline - Ontario Schools Code of Conduct; Municipal Conflict of Interest Act; Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act; Bill 177 Stronger, Fairer Ontario Act; OPSBA Code of Conduct Template; O Reg 246/18 Members of School Boards – Code of Conduct.

A Board of Education Trustee (hereinafter referred to as a “Board Member”) is an elected position which carries with it the understanding that the electorate will decide at election time its support for the effectiveness of the Board Member. At the same time, it is important to recognize the public trust and responsibility the collective body carries and that this trust and responsibility is honoured through determining and enforcing norms of acceptable behaviour.

A Code of Conduct policy contributes to confidence in public education and respect for the integrity of elected Board Members in the community. It deals with acceptable and respectful behaviour.

1. Code of Conduct
Avon Maitland District School Board expects that its Board Members will conduct themselves in an ethical, respectful and professional manner, and in accordance with the standards outlined in sections 169.1 and 218.1 of the Education Act. This commitment includes the appropriate exercise of authority as a Board of Trustees, and as individual Board Members.

This Code of Conduct and associated Complaint and Enforcement Process apply to all Board Members including the Chair and Vice-Chair. Student Trustees shall be equally guided by the expectations set out in this Code of Conduct.

2. Integrity and Dignity of Office
2.1 Board Members shall discharge their duties in accordance with their fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of AMDSB, loyally, faithfully, impartially, without conflict of interest, respecting the confidentiality of the Board, its students and staff, and in a manner that will inspire public confidence in the Avon Maitland District School Board, and the Board of Trustees as its governing body.

2.2 Board Members shall recognize that the expenditure of school board funds is a public trust. They shall ensure that they act as effective stewards of the Board’s resources and make financial decisions with a focus on their duty to deliver effective and appropriate education programs and services to students.
2.3 Each Board Member shall comply with Board policies, procedures, By-Laws, Rules of Order, Ministry of Education guidelines and directives, and applicable statutes and regulations. 

2.4 Board Members shall conduct themselves in a manner that recognizes that decision making authority rests with the Board of Trustees as a collective decision-making body, and that individual Board Members have no individual authority, except as may be specifically delegated by resolution of the Board. Board members shall not attempt to exercise or claim any individual authority over the board of education, its schools, staff, students, volunteers or premises.

2.5 Board Members shall uphold the implementation of any Board resolution after it is passed by the Board.

2.6 The Chair of the Board is the public spokesperson for the Board of Trustees. The Director of Education is the public spokesperson for the AMDSB. No other Board Member other than the Chair shall speak on behalf of the Board of Trustees unless expressly authorized by resolution of the Board to do so. Board Members are discouraged from publicly expressing individual opinions about matters that come before the Board of Trustees, except at Board and Board Committee meetings. If a Board Member expresses a public opinion, they must make it clear that they are not speaking on behalf of the Board of Trustees.

3. Civil Behaviour

3.1 Board Members shall at all times, act with decorum and shall be respectful of other Board Members and staff, as well as the public. No Board Member shall engage in conduct during meetings of the Board or Board Committees, or at any other time, that would discredit or compromise the integrity of the AMDSB or the Board of Trustees.

3.2 During Board and Board Committee meetings, a Board Member may comment on, or disagree with, the views of another Board Member, or a board decision or direction. In expressing such comment or disagreement, a Board Member shall not make disparaging remarks about another Member, or staff, use offensive or disrespectful language, or speculate on the motives of a Member or staff. Comments shall be restricted to the issue at hand, and not the people involved.

3.3 It is incumbent upon all Board Members to raise a point of order if in their opinion another Board Member has spoken or behaved contrary to the expectations set out in this Code of Conduct. Board Members shall defer to the decision of the Chair on points of order and shall not otherwise disrupt a meeting of the Board or a Committee of the Board.

3.4 Board Members shall acknowledge in their actions and communications that the Director of Education reports to the Board of Trustees, and all other employees of the board report to the Director. Board Members will therefore not directly or indirectly attempt to direct or influence the activities of any staff person except the Director of Education, and that direction shall be in the form of Board resolution.

3.5 Board members will not publicly voice any judgement of the Director of Education or other staff. The Board shall confine comment regarding the Director’s job performance to the annual performance review process, which shall be limited to an assessment of explicit goals set at the previous year’s performance review. Board Members have no authority to participate in other staff performance appraisals and shall not attempt to influence same.

3.6 Board members’ interaction with the public, media, parents/guardians, community groups and other external stakeholders shall reflect their duty of loyalty to AMDSB, as well as their duty of confidentiality. Board members shall refrain from speculating on school board actions or pending Board of Trustee decisions. Requests for such speculation from the public or media shall be referred to the Chair or the Director of Education.

3.7 A Board Member shall not advance allegations of misconduct and/or a breach of this Code of Conduct that are trivial, frivolous, vexatious, made in bad faith or vindictive in nature against another member of the Board.

4. Duty of Confidentiality
4.1 Board Members acknowledge that as part of their duties they may have access to private, confidential, personal and/or legally privileged financial, business and/or commercial information. Such information may include, but is not limited to, information relating to the Board’s organizational structure, human resources, operations and operational plans, real and other property, financial and research data, personal information of students and staff, legal matters and opinions, and other work produced, developed by or for the Board, and the Board Member shall keep any and all such information confidential.

4.2 The duty of confidentiality extends to information which is identified as confidential, and information which it is reasonable to assume is confidential, including but not limited to any personal information as defined by the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

4.3 Board Members shall keep confidential all information received pursuant to and at in-camera meetings, including but not limited to reports, discussions, deliberations and actions, unless required to divulge such information by law. For greater clarity, such information shall not be discussed or referred to in public or in any manner or place where another person not privy to the information could accidentally overhear or read such information. The duty of confidentiality regarding information shared at an in-camera meeting extends to Board Members who were not in attendance.

4.4 Except as required by law, all Board Members and former Board Members agree not to use, directly or indirectly, for the Board Member’s benefit or the benefit of any person, organization, form, or other entity, the Board’s proprietary or confidential information disclosed or entrusted to the Board Member. Board Members recognize that such inappropriate use of confidential information for their benefit may constitute a breach of trust contrary to Section 122 of the Criminal Code of Canada.

4.5 A Board Member’s duty of confidentiality survives their term of office.

5. Avoidance of Personal Advantage and Conflict of Interest

5.1 Board members shall avoid conflicts of interest and in particular shall not contravene the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.
5.2 A Board Member shall not use their office to advance their own interests or the interests of any family member or person or organization with whom or with which the member is related or associated.
5.3 No Board Member shall not accept a gift from any person or entity that has dealings with the Board if a reasonable person might conclude that the gift could influence the Board Member in performing their duties to the Board.
5.4 No Board Member shall use their office to obtain employment with the Board for themselves or a family member.

6. Compliance with Legislation

6.1 A Board Member shall discharge their duties in accordance with the Education Act and any regulations, directives or guidelines issued thereunder, and all other applicable legislation.
6.2 Every Board Member shall respect the statutory roles and responsibilities of their fellow Board Members, the Director of Education, Supervisory Officers, and the Chair of the Board. The Education Act provides that Board Members shall entrust the day to day management of the Board to board staff through the Board’s Director of Education.
6.3 Board Policy 6: Role of the Trustee is adopted as part of this Trustee Code of Conduct. Contravention of any provision of Board Policy 6 shall constitute a breach of this Code.

7. Board Member Commitment
Every member of the Board shall uphold the letter and spirit of this Code of Conduct and shall assist fellow Board members to do the same.

I confirm that I have read, understand and agree to abide by the Board's Code of Conduct and the accompanying Complaint and Enforcement Procedure attached as Appendix A.

Please Print Name: 

Appendix A - Code of Conduct Complaint and Enforcement Process
1. Outline of Process
1.1 Where it is alleged that a Board member has breached the Trustee Code of Conduct, the Board shall follow the Complaint and Enforcement Process outlined herein to identify the alleged breach, attempt to resolve the concern, respond to a complaint if necessary, including inquiring into the circumstances surrounding the alleged breach, and disposition of the complaint.
1.2 Board members may take no other steps in response to an alleged breach, except as outlined in this Code of Conduct Complaint and Enforcement Process. For greater clarity, no Board Member may undertake their own inquiry or investigative process.

2. Limitation Period
2.1 Any allegation of a breach of the Code must be brought forward as soon as possible, and in any event no later than eight (8) weeks after the conduct which is the subject of the allegation became known to the Board Member making the allegation.
2.2 Notwithstanding the foregoing, in no circumstance shall an inquiry into a breach of the Code be started after the expiration of six (6) months from the time the contravention is alleged to have occurred.
2.3 The limitation period for bringing a complaint shall not include the period during which a complaint cannot be made as a result of an election or police inquiry, as further described below.

3. Informal Conflict Resolution
3.1 It is recognized that from time to time a contravention of the Code may occur that is trivial, or committed through inadvertence, or is as a result of an error of judgment made in good faith.
3.2 In the spirit of collegiality, and so as not to distract the Board from its governance role, a Board member contemplating a Code of Conduct complaint shall first contact the Chair and the Board Member who is thought to have been responsible for a breach, to discuss their concern(s).
3.3 Every effort will be made to resolve the matter at this stage, in a timely manner. The Chair and/or Vice Chair may assist with resolution. Mediation may be considered, if both parties consent.
3.4 Informal resolution may result in a mutual agreement to dismiss the matter, an apology, an informal caution, a commitment to a follow-up course of action, such as training for one or all Board Members.
3.5 If the matter is resolved informally, the Chair shall advise the Board of Trustees that a complaint was received and resolved and shall recognize the collaborative efforts of both parties in reaching an informal resolution.
4. Submitting Written Code of Conduct Complaint
4.1 Where a concern cannot be resolved informally, a Board Member who has reasonable grounds to believe that another Board Member has breached the Trustee Code of Conduct may submit a written complaint with the Board of Trustees through the Chair.
4.2 The Chair shall forthwith provide a copy of a written complaint to the Board Member who is the subject of the complaint.
4.3 In the case of an alleged breach of the Code by the Chair, the written complaint shall be sent to the Vice Chair.
4.4 If the allegation is against both the Chair and Vice-Chair, the complainant shall submit their complaint to the attention of the whole Board, and an Inquiry Committee of three Trustees shall be appointed by Board resolution.
4.5 In the event that a complaint is brought against the Chair, or the Chair and the Vice Chair, the process described herein shall be read as substituting the Vice- Chair, or the Inquiry Committee, as the case may be, to perform the duties prescribed to the Chair.
4.6 A written compliant shall include the following:
    1. The name of the Board Member who is alleged to have breached the Code;
    2. The section(s) of the Code alleged to have been breached;
    3. A description of the actions or statements constituting the alleged breach(es), including when and where;
    4. How the breach came to the Complainant Board Member's attention;
    5. Names and contact information of any witnesses or persons who may have information relevant to the allegation.
5. Summary Dismissal
5.1 If the Chair, or Vice-Chair or Inquiry Committee, as the case may be, is of the opinion that the complaint is out of time, trivial, frivolous, vexatious or not made in good faith, or that there are no grounds, or insufficient grounds, for an inquiry, they shall state their conclusion and recommendation that the complaint be summarily dismissed along with their reasons in a written report to the Board of Trustees, and seek adoption of the recommendation by resolution of the Board.

6. Internal or External Inquiry
6.1 Upon receipt of a written complaint that warrants further inquiry, the Chair shall convene an Inquiry Committee with three Board members, which shall be the Chair, the Vice-Chair and one other Board Member selected by lot (or additional Board Members to be chosen by lot if the Chair and/or the Vice Chair are disqualified because they are the subject of the Complaint). The drawing of lots shall be witnessed by the Secretary to the Board.
6.2 Neither the Board Member who is the complainant nor the responding Board Member shall serve on the Inquiry Committee.
6.3 If the Chair deems the complaint to be sufficiently complex, or there is a possibility that an Inquiry Committee cannot be comprised entirely of unbiased members, the Chair may seek approval by resolution of the Board to engage an external investigator to conduct the inquiry.
7. Factual Inquiry
7.1 The task of the Inquiry Committee or external investigator (the “fact-finder”) will be to make a finding of fact: Was the Trustee Code of Conduct breached by the responding Board member as alleged by the Complainant.
7.2 The fact-finder will proceed as follows:
    1. Review the written complaint, and contact the complainant with any questions of clarification, including whether any documentation can be provided, or witnesses contacted, to substantiate the facts alleged;
    2. Invite the Board Member alleged to have breached the Code to provide any verbal, written and/or documentary response to the complaint that they submit the fact-finder should take into account, and ask if there are any witnesses or third parties to whom the Inquiry Committee should speak;
    3. Contact any witnesses or third parties identified by either the complainant or the responding Board Member as persons who may have information relevant to the complaint.
7.3 The inquiry process will proceed with or without the participation of the responding Board member.
7.4 The inquiry shall be limited to the facts supporting the alleged breach. No corollary or additional matters not identified in the written complaint will be considered.
7.5 After completing its inquiry, the fact-finder shall consider whether, on the balance of probabilities the Code of Conduct has been breached by the responding Board member as alleged by the Complainant, and shall summarize its conclusion in a report to the Board of Trustees.
7.6 Prior to reporting to the Board of Trustees, the fact-finder shall provide a draft copy of the report to both the complainant and responding Board Member, each of whom shall have five (5) days to respond with any corrections regarding factual errors only. No additional submissions or documentation will be considered at this stage.
7.7 The fact-finding process shall remain strictly confidential until it is complete and a report is provided to the Board.

8. Duty to Meet in Public
8.1 The Education Act states at section 207(1) that meetings of the Board and Committees of the Board shall be open to the public, and no person shall be excluded from a meeting that is open to the public except for improper conduct. Section 207(2) outlines five limited exceptions to this general rule, and states that a meeting of a Committee of the Board, including a Committee of the Whole Board, may meet in-camera if the subject matter being discussed is:
    1. the security of the property of the board;
    2. the disclosure of intimate, personal or financial information in respect of a member of the board or committee, an employee or prospective employee of the board or a pupil or his or her parent or guardian;
    3. the acquisition or disposal of a school site;
    4. decisions in respect of negotiations with employees of the board; or
    5. litigation affecting the board.
8.2 Section 218.2(10) of the Education Act allows that the Board of Trustees may meet in-camera for the part of any meeting at which it considers an alleged breach involving one of the five exceptions listed in section 207(2), reproduced above. However, the Board shall do the following by resolution at a public meeting of the Board of Trustees:
    1. Make a determination that a member has breached the Trustee Code of Conduct.
    2. Impose a sanction on the Board Member found to have breached the Code.
    3. Confirm or revoke a determination that the Code has been breached.
    4. Confirm, vary or revoke a sanction imposed.
9. Disposition of Complaint
9.1 The Board of Trustees shall receive the fact-finder’s report and consider a resolution as to whether, on the balance of probabilities, the Code of Conduct was breached.
9.2 Neither the Complainant nor the responding Board Member may participate in the discussion and debate of the motion.
9.3 If the Board resolves that the Code was not breached, the Board of Trustees shall dismiss the complaint.
9.4 If the Board resolves that the Code was breached, the Board may consider a further motion to impose one or more of the following sanctions:
    1. A verbal caution regarding the Board Member’s conduct;
    2. Censure of the Board Member;
    3. Barring the Board member from attending all or part of a meeting of the Board or a meeting of a Committee of the Board.
    4. Barring the member from sitting on one or more Committees of the Board, for the period of time specified by the Board.
9.5 A Board Member who is barred from attending all or part of a meeting of the Board or a meeting of a Committee of the Board is not entitled to receive any materials that relate to that meeting or that part of the meeting that are not available to members of the public.
9.6 The imposition of a sanction barring a Board Member from attending all or part of a meeting of the Board shall be deemed to be authorization for the Board Member to be absent from the meeting for purposes of section 228(1)(b) of the Education Act (deemed vacating of a seat).
9.7 The complainant may vote on the resolutions with respect to disposition of the complaint. The Responding Board Member may be present at the meeting but may not vote.

10. Reconsideration of Breach
10.1 If the Board determines that a Board Member has breached the Trustee Code of Conduct the Board shall provide the Board Member with written notice of the determination and of any sanction(s) imposed.
10.2 The written notice shall inform the Board Member that they may make written submissions to the Board of Trustees in respect of the determination or sanction by a date specified in the notice that shall be no less than 14 (fourteen) days after the notice is received by the Board Member.
10.3 The Board shall meet within 14 (fourteen) days to consider any submissions received, at a public meeting of the Board, unless an exception to the requirement to meet in public applies. The Board shall either confirm or revoke its original determination as to whether a breach occurred, and any sanctions imposed.
10.4 If a sanction is varied or revoked, the variation or revocation shall be deemed to be effective as of the date of the original resolution.
10.5 The Board Member alleged to have breached the Code may be present but shall not vote on the reconsideration.

11. Election Year
11.1 A complaint respecting a Board Member who is seeking re-election shall not be brought during the period commencing two months prior to election-day and ending at the start of the organizational meeting of the new Board. If the Board Member accused of a breach of the Code is not re-elected, no inquiry into the alleged breach of the Code by that member shall be undertaken.

12. Suspension of Process
12.1 If the Board is notified that the subject-matter of a complaint is being investigated by police, the Board will consult the Police Protocol and if necessary, suspend its Complaint and Enforcement Process until such time as the police advise that the Board may continue.

13. General
13.1 The Statutory Powers Procedure Act does not apply to the Code of Conduct Enforcement Process.
13.2 AMDSB is under no obligation to compensate any Board Member for legal costs incurred in either making a complaint or responding to a complaint.
13.3 A written complaint may be withdrawn at any time by the Board Member who submitted the complaint, and this will result in a dismissal of the complaint.
13.4 The Complaint and Enforcement Process shall proceed with as much timeliness as is reasonably possible.
Revised April, 2023