Waterford teacher denies being against vaccines
TORONTO — A disciplinary hearing for a Waterford teacher accused of telling students they could die as a result of vaccination is hearing from a public health nurse who says she felt intimidated by the man’s actions.
Angela Swick, a nurse with the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, says Timothy C. Sullivan shouted at her and her colleagues when they visited the school on March 9, 2015.
Testifying at Sullivan’s disciplinary hearing Tuesday, Swick said the teacher accused her of withholding information from students who were being vaccinated.
Sullivan denies those allegations, arguing he was warning students about the risks associated with vaccines.
The Ontario College of Teachers is accusing Sullivan of professional misconduct for telling students they could die from vaccines and allegedly telling the nurse she was hiding information about the shot from students.
Sullivan says his issue is with informed consent rather than the vaccines themselves.
“I am pro informed consent, pro science and pro asking questions,” he said during a break in the hearing.
Sullivan has been suspended with pay since April 15, 2015. He teaches in Waterford in the Grand Erie District School Board, but his school cannot be named due to a publication ban in place to protect students’ identities.
Swick described several encounters with Sullivan she said left her feeling “uneasy.”
The teacher came into the cafeteria as she and her colleagues were administering four different types of vaccines and demanded information about the drugs, she said. He was asked to leave, she added.
“He then turned around, came back and put his hands in front of me (on the desk) and said ‘I hope you’re letting these students know these vaccines could cause death,’” Swick told the hearing.
Swick said she immediately texted her supervisor because she worried there would be more interactions with Sullivan as the day went on. He did in fact return, she said, and “asked the kids if they knew what was in the vaccine and shouted at them not to get it.”
Swick said she alerted the principal, who came to the cafeteria with another teacher who watched the side door for signs of Sullivan.
The third encounter was more of the same, she said. “We felt really intimidated and scared,” Swick said. “We go into the school to do a service, we feel fortunate to go into schools — we just didn’t have an encounter like this before.”
Sullivan, who is representing himself, peppered Swick with questions about informed consent during his cross-examination, asking the nurse whether she told students about rare but potentially serious side effects. Swick said she doesn’t warn students about vaccines’ serious side effects as part of her routine. But, she said, she will inform students of certain side effects if it appears relevant based on the student’s answers to her screening questions.
“If they are on heart medication, then we move onto something like hypertension,” Swick said.
The hearing is scheduled to last two days.
Teacher Timothy C. Sullivan leaves a disciplinary hearing in Toronto on Tuesday. He is accused of being confrontational to a group of public health nurses giving vaccinations at his school.