Teacher found guilty in an­ti­vac­ci­na­tion case

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - LIAM CASEY

TORONTO — An On­tario sci­ence teacher who scared stu­dents and be­rated a pub­lic health nurse while push­ing his an­ti­vac­ci­na­tion views has been found guilty of pro­fes­sional mis­con­duct.

An in­de­pen­dent dis­ci­plinary com­mit­tee with the On­tario Col­lege of Teach­ers found Ti­mothy Sul­li­van guilty Wed­nes­day of five acts, in­clud­ing abus­ing stu­dents psy­cho­log­i­cally or emo­tion­ally.

The col­lege had ac­cused Sul­li­van of pro­fes­sional mis­con­duct for his ac­tions on March 9, 2015, when he shouted at a pub­lic health nurse ad­min­is­ter­ing vac­cines at his high school and told stu­dents they could die if they take the vac­cine.

Sul­li­van, who rep­re­sented him­self, stormed out of the pro­ceed­ings as the col­lege sub­mit­ted its sen­tenc­ing pro­posal.

“You al­ready have some ideas what you’re go­ing to do, don’t you?” Sul­li­van said to the com­mit­tee as he left.

Sul­li­van, a teacher at a high school in Water­ford, de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tions, but ad­mit­ted to leav­ing class once to speak with nurses and to telling one stu­dent that a side ef­fect of one of the vac­cines was death.

He main­tains that the stu­dents weren’t given proper in­for­ma­tion to con­sent to the vac­cine, in­clud­ing in­for­ma­tion about po­ten­tially se­ri­ous, but rare, side ef­fects of the shots.

He was sus­pended for one day with­out pay in April 2015 for his ac­tions the pre­vi­ous month.

The col­lege is seek­ing a penalty that in­cludes a sus­pen­sion for one month and com­plet­ing an anger man­age­ment course.

The dis­ci­plinary com­mit­tee will de­lib­er­ate on sen­tenc­ing sub­mis­sions.

On Tues­day, An­gela Swick, a nurse with the Haldimand-Nor­folk Health Unit, told the hear­ing she felt threat­ened and in­tim­i­dated by Sul­li­van’s three vis­its to the cafe­te­ria where she and her col­leagues were giv­ing vac­cines to stu­dents.

Swick said she felt “un­easy” about the in­ter­ac­tions with Sul­li­van and told the com­mit­tee he shouted at her and her col­leagues, ac­cus­ing her of with­hold­ing in­for­ma­tion from the stu­dents about the vac­cines they were tak­ing.

Sul­li­van came into the cafe­te­ria of the school — which can­not be named be­cause of a publi­ca­tion ban in place to pro­tect stu­dents’ iden­ti­ties — as she and her col­leagues were ad­min­is­ter­ing four dif­fer­ent types of vac­cines and de­manded in­for­ma­tion about the drugs, she said.

“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.

Brian Quist­berg, the school’s prin­ci­pal at the time, tes­ti­fied that par­ents and stu­dents had com­plained about Sul­li­van’s views on vac­ci­na­tion, adding the teacher told his pupils there is a link be­tween vac­cines and autism — a view that is widely de­nounced by the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity.

Quist­berg said he had sent Sul­li­van a let­ter just two weeks be­fore the in­ci­dent, warn­ing him that his fix­a­tion on vac­cines had af­fected his teach­ing.

Dur­ing Sul­li­van’s clos­ing ar­gu­ments, he said he had the stu­dents’ health and best in­ter­ests in mind when he vis­ited the clinic.

He said he asked one stu­dent: “Are you aware one of the side ef­fects in the man­u­fac­turer’s insert is death?” “I said that. “If that’s emo­tional abuse or psy­cho­log­i­cal abuse, I’m guilty.”

He said he was try­ing to be a role model.

“If ask­ing un­com­fort­able ques­tions makes me dis­grace­ful ... then I’m guilty as charged.”

CHRIS YOUNG, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

High school teacher Ti­mothy Sul­li­van leaves a dis­ci­plinary hear­ing in Toronto on Tues­day. On Wed­nes­day he was found guilty of pro­fes­sional mis­con­duct.

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