Canada
Toronto school board director admits to op-ed plagiarism

Toronto District School Board Director of Education Chris Spence

Credits: GREG HENKENHAF/QMI AGENCY

JENNY YUEN | QMI AGENCY

TORONTO -- Toronto District School Board's director of education says he made a "terrible" mistake when plagiarizing material in an opinion piece written for a Toronto newspaper.

Chris Spence admitted Wednesday that he plagiarized portions of an article he wrote for a Toronto daily newspaper earlier this month which focused on the importance of extracurricular activities.

"I will be widely condemned for what I have done. I put my fate in the board of trustees and I am open to discuss a process," Spence said Wednesday night at the school board's offices prior to a special meeting.

"I am ashamed and embarrassed. This mistake is a terrible one."

Trustees held the special meeting to discuss new teacher contracts and no other items -- including Spence's plagiarism -- were allowed on the agenda.

"I am very concerned about the events. The incident to do with the director," board chairman Chris Bolton said. "In the next short period of time, I expect to have another special board meeting to address this."

Spence also issued a public statement that was posted on the TDSB website.

"I am not a student anymore. I am an adult and an educator. I should know better. And I must set a clear example for the nearly 250,000 students at the TDSB," Spence wrote.

According to Toronto District School Board policy, if students are caught plagiarizing, a "mark of zero will be awarded for the assignment in question," as well as the notification of teachers and principals.

In his letter of apology, Spence acknowledged he did not give proper credit for the work and "in no less than five different instances" he lifted content from a 1989 New York Times opinion piece.

"There is no excuse for what I did," he said in the statement. "I am ashamed and embarrassed by what I did. I have invited criticism and condemnation and I richly deserve both. Words of apology are not enough."

TDSB spokesman Ryan Bird said the board didn't wish to comment, referring media to Spence's apology statement.
Spence was hired in 2009 by the TDSB, but Bird couldn't immediately confirm when his contract was up -- or whether that information is available to the public.

In his statement, Spence said he will enrol himself in the Ethics and Law course at Ryerson University's journalism program and intends to "take concrete steps" to have the discredited op-ed removed anywhere it's found online or printed, "with my full retraction and apology put in its place."


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