TORONTO – An Ontario science teacher accused of pushing anti-vaccination views, scaring students and berating a public health nurse has been found guilty of professional misconduct.
An independent disciplinary committee with the Ontario College of Teachers says Timothy C. Sullivan is guilty of five acts that include abusing students psychologically or emotionally.
The college had accused Sullivan of professional misconduct for his actions on March 9, 2015, saying 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, a teacher at a high school in Waterford, Ont., 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 one day without pay in April 2015 for his actions that day.
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.
She said she felt “uneasy” about the interactions with Sullivan and said 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 due to 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 on Tuesday.
Brian Quistberg, the school’s principal at the time, has testified that parents and students complained about Sullivan’s views on vaccination in the past, 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 three times.
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.”