Teacher’s Role in Child Custody Case
A teacher has been contacted by a parent who wants the member to provide information to his lawyer in a custody case. The member wants to know what information to provide, because the parent has mentioned the possibility of a subpoena to obtain school records.
If the lawyer for either parent requests an interview, the teacher is under no obligation to agree even if the custodial parent gives permission. A teacher who is subpoenaed must attend court. However, what can be revealed in court or even in an interview with lawyers is somewhat restricted.
In a private interview or in court, the teacher cannot comment on the physical, mental or emotional state of a student because that is the role of an expert witness. The teacher may refer to personal notes but may not say anything that relates to other students.
Teachers may also speak about facts they know through personal experience and knowledge of the student. The use of Ontario School Record (OSR) information has a very restricted status, and therefore most school boards require a court order to release this information. Should such an order be provided, the school board lawyer will handle the restriction issue.
Members should discuss any requests from parents on custody issues with their principal. The superintendent and/or school board lawyer may also get involved.
OECTA does not provide lawyers to accompany members to court in these situations. Teachers are advised to contact your local OECTA unit for advice on these matters. If you cannot get in touch with your local OECTA unit, contact OECTA’s Provincial Office.