TDSB head apologizes for plagiarizing passages in newspaper op-ed
TDSB Director Chris Spence is seen in this undated CTV file photo.
Kieron Lang, CTV Toronto
Published Wednesday, January 9, 2013 11:49AM EST
In a starkly repentant statement, the Toronto District School Board's education director has admitted and apologized for plagiarism in a recent op-ed newspaper piece, saying he's "ashamed and embarrassed by what I did."
In a statement released Tuesday, Chris Spence admits that, "in no less than five different instances," he failed to credit the work of other writers included in a Toronto Star opinion piece bearing his byline.
"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," Spence wrote, adding that "there is no excuse for what I did."
The article in question, published in the paper's Saturday edition, focuses on the need for and importance of sports and extra-curricular activities in schools.
A reader alerted The Star -- the country’s highest-circulation paper -- that several passages in the piece had previously appeared in published articles written by other authors. That triggered an investigation, and Spence's subsequent admission of wrongdoing.
In his eloquently constructed apology, Spence takes pains to outline the steps he is pursuing to make amends for his transgression including:
- Following the TDSB's own policy on plagiarism, starting with the investigation and communication instigated by The Star
- Enrollment "at the earliest opportunity" in an Ethics and Law in Journalism course at Ryerson University
- An effort to remove the piece from anywhere it was published, and a prominent inclusion of his apology in its place
Spence's final step, he wrote, was an unequivocal apology.
"I apologize, unreservedly and categorically, to the Toronto Star and its editorial staff for the embarrassment I have caused them," he wrote, extending apologies to the paper's readers, his TDSB colleagues and the students they serve, as well.
"I have let them all down."
Spence, who has a doctorate in education, has led Toronto's public school board since 2009.
He is expected to address the matter at a face-to-face meeting with board trustees Wednesday.
The complete text of Chris Spence's apology released on Jan. 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.