The Ottawa Citizen
19 September 2013
Former priest John Kenneth O’Keefe’s teaching certificate has been revoked by the Ontario College of Teachers. Photograph by: Mike Carroccetto , Ottawa Citizen
OTTAWA — An 83-year-old priest and retired high school teacher found guilty on a criminal charge after sexually abusing a male student almost four decades ago has lost his teaching certificate.
The disciplinary committee of the Ontario College of Teachers ordered Kenneth O’Keefe’s certificate revoked, agreeing with a joint submission from lawyers for the former teacher and the college.
Though O’Keefe has retired and is unlikely to teach again, the committee also called for his name to be published in the college’s official publication, for general deterrence, along with its findings.
“The profession must be fully informed as to the consequences of the behaviour being considered in this matter,” the decision states.
“Teachers must know that they are held to a very high standard and that failure to adhere to the standard will result in the College’s most severe penalty.”
O’Keefe had faced allegations of professional misconduct, and did not attend the hearing on Aug. 27.
The release of a written decision in the case happened to coincide with an Ontario government announcement on Wednesday that it was proposing new legislation to make the teacher disciplinary process more transparent.
The Liberal government’s bill would allow complaints that involve a criminal conviction and guilty plea by a teacher to be “fast-tracked” directly to the discipline committee, according to the college.
It would also make an automatic licence revocation the penalty “for sexual abuse or acts related to child pornography,” the college stated. Teachers would have to wait at least five years before they could apply for reinstatement, according to Education Minister Liz Sandals.
School boards would also have to tell the college when they restrict a teacher’s duties or dismiss someone for misconduct.
O’Keefe, a one-time alcoholic who now suffers from dementia, pleaded guilty in 2012 to indecent assault and was sentenced to a nine-month conditional sentence.
The student had been invited to an overnight stay at O’Keefe’s home in 1974 after telling the teacher about an argument he’d had with his parents, according to an agreed upon set of facts submitted to the disciplinary hearing.
When the student arrived, there was only one bed, the facts state. The student — 16 years old at the time, the court heard during criminal proceedings — said he could sleep on the floor, but O’Keefe said they could share the bed.
The student later woke up to the naked priest pushing at him from behind and touching the boy inside his underwear, the statement of facts says.
O’Keefe acknowledged that his actions constituted professional misconduct, the committee’s decision states.
Lawyers for the college and O’Keefe jointly proposed that his certificate be pulled.
The disciplinary committee did not identify the school where O’Keefe taught, but the criminal court heard that he’d worked at St. Pius X High School at the time.
The college stated that amendments proposed through the government’s bill “are consistent with advice provided to the province by the college’s council” in response to a review by former Ontario chief justice Patrick LeSage that was released last year.
Many of the review’s 49 recommendations have been implemented, according to the college.