The Toronto District School Board says there is nothing in an agreement it signed with a disgraced former leader that prevents him from revealing who helped him plagiarize published articles and public speeches.
In a video statement released this week, former TDSB education director Chris Spence said that while he has taken full responsibility for the articles, blog pieces and speeches that carried his name, copying the work of others was a result of "unintentional" and "reckless" mistakes. He also said he signed a non-disclosure agreement with the TDSB that kept him from disclosing who helped him craft the material that led to allegations of plagiarism.
He was found guilty of professional misconduct in December by a disciplinary committee of the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT), and his teaching certificate was revoked. Dr. Spence has appealed that decision and said he would disclose under oath the circumstances around the allegations.
But Ryan Bird, a spokesman for the TDSB, said Dr. Spence has always been free to share the truth about the allegations, as there was nothing in the agreement that prevented him from doing so.
"As Dr. Spence stated in his video, there was an agreement limiting disclosure of certain information, however that agreement does not prevent disclosure of the truth whether or not under oath, at the OCT or elsewhere," Mr. Bird said in an e-mail.
Dr. Spence was not available for comment Thursday.
Bruce Davis, a former TDSB trustee who is among a group of supporters raising money to cover the former director's legal costs for the appeal, said Dr. Spence was warned by the TDSB that he could not disclose the circumstances surrounding the plagiarism allegations or his departure from the school board.
"He is constrained by an agreement that he signed in 2013," Mr. Davis said, adding that he was speaking on Dr. Spence's behalf. "If they think they can do this, it's just not on."
Dr. Spence did not attend his hearing at the OCT. He said he was suffering from depression and that his doctors advised him not to attend because it would complicate his recovery. He said he is now ready to fight to have his teaching certificate reinstated.
He is also facing accusations by the University of Toronto that he plagiarized parts of his 1996 PhD dissertation. In the video, he admitted he did not give proper credit in some parts but said he was working full-time and completing a film at the time, so he may have been "reckless and careless."
"That's my work, and I stand behind that work and I will vigorously defend that work," he said.
He has been working in Chicago for a social-services agency that helps struggling teenagers, Mr. Davis said. Dr. Spence has said he wants to teach again.
The allegations surfaced when a Toronto Star reader alerted the newspaper that an article by Dr. Spence appeared to have been plagiarized. That drew attention to his other work, including his blog at the TDSB.
He resigned as education director in January, 2013.