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TDSB Director of Education Admits to Plagiarism

Plagiarism is a subject that students are familiar with in schools and it is frowned upon

Plagiarism is a subject that students are familiar with in schools and it is frowned upon to use anyone else's words and ideas and pretend that they are your own.

On Wednesday morning, Chris Spence, the Director of Education for the Toronto Public School Board, has publicly admitted to plagiarism after being caught by a Toronto Star reader in an op-ed piece that he wrote about the importance of extra-curricular activities.

In a letter, Spence says that in no less than 5 different instances he did not give proper credit for the work of others and says any explanation he might give would be just an excuse. In his words "there is no excuse for what I did ... I am ashamed and embarrassed ... words of apology are not enough."

Doctor Spence goes on to say he will enroll himself in the Ethics and Law course in the Ryerson Journalism program, and will offer a full retraction of the op-ed piece and offer an apology in its place, no matter where the piece ends up.

He says he'll post it on his web page on the TDSB site as well as on his Facebook page and Twitter account. He offers apologies all around and vows "it will never happen again."

(w files from D. Agar)

Spence's Statement Re: Toronto Star Op-Ed

January 9, 2013

Earlier this month, I wrote an op-ed for the Toronto Star. The subject of the op-ed was sports and young people. It’s a subject I am passionate about, having been involved in sports, and education, for as long as I can remember.

I wrote that op-ed and – in no less than five different instances – I did not give proper credit for the work of others. I did not attribute their work. I did research and wrote down notes and came back at it the next day, and wrote down the notes.

I can provide excuses for how and why this happened – that I was rushed, that I was sloppy, that I was careless – but that’s all they would be: excuses. There is no excuse for what I did. In the position I am honoured to occupy, in the wonderful job I do every single day, I of all people should have known that.

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. So I want to describe what I intend to do, too.

One, the TDSB’s own policy on student academic dishonesty and plagiarism requires investigation and communication. That has been done, thoroughly and appropriately, by the Toronto Star. After a TDSB student is found to have plagiarized, the “minimum consequence” is a mark of zero and the notification of others.

In my case, neither of those consequences is nearly enough. 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.

Secondly, I intend to enroll myself in the Ethics and Law in Journalism course offered by Ryerson University. A component of that course is identification, and avoidance, of plagiarism. I will enroll in that course at the earliest opportunity.

Number three: I intend to identify any place where the discredited op-ed has appeared, online or off, and take concrete steps to have it completely removed, with my full retraction and apology put in its place.

Number four: I will immediately ensure that my apology and retraction is posted on my web page on the TDSB site; on my Facebook page; my Twitter account; and on all other web properties under my control. It will be in a prominent and permanent location.

Number five, and finally: this is what I wish to say to you all.

I apologize, unreservedly and categorically, to the Toronto Star and its editorial staff for the embarrassment I have caused them. I apologize with equal seriousness to all of the readers of that newspaper. I apologize, in particular, to my colleagues at TDSB, and to all those families and children we are privileged to serve. I have let them all down.

It goes without saying that it will never happen again. And I intend to take real and meaningful steps to learn from this, and learn how to avoid a reoccurrence.

I thank all who have read these words, and offer them my apology.

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  1. Laurea posted on 01/09/2013 09:01 AM
    In the first sentence of this article, part of the line reads, ".... frowned up on ..." Would it be frowned upon to point out that the phrase should not be frowned "up on?"
  2. Laurea posted on 01/09/2013 09:13 AM
    Anyway... you'd think this guy had committed murder by the way he's apologizing and 'punishing' himself.
  3. TJ posted on 01/09/2013 09:59 AM
    Had it been a student who commited this offense....surely they would have been punished by means of suspension or failing mark....something.

    This should not just slide by without some consequence.....otherwise we have a double standard.

    I'm not saying fire but something with some meat.
    1. Sangee posted on 01/09/2013 05:04 PM
      @TJ The policy is not to suspend students for plagiarism. They are usuallybjust given a mark of zero withe very little punishment. Often times, parents intervene and demand their child has the opportunity to resubmit the assignment. Usually the administration forces teachers to do as the parent asks, regardless of the policy.
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