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