Monday, October 18, 2021
A Hearing Committee of the Law Society of Saskatchewan has deemed an applicant rehabilitated from misconduct that involved inappropriate social media posts that led to his suspension as a teacher
At the time of the STF hearing, the Applicant signed an Agreed Statement of Facts (“ASOF”) in which he acknowledged posting to his Twitter account posts that were objectively sexually suggestive, posts which identified himself as an educator, and posts with race and sexual orientation based content. Further, the ASOF stated that Mr. Baron’s school division issued computer contained a personal letter that was written by Mr. Baron and saved as a Word document. That letter named a student and was offensive in its description of the student.
Mr. Baron is 42 years old. He and his family reside in a small rural community. After he lost his teaching certificate in 2015 he began working as a legal assistant at Shawn Patenaude Law, and has since continuously been employed there with the exception of time spent in law school. When his teaching license was returned to him he considered a return to the classroom but ultimately decided to go to law school instead. When he applied to the College of Law he understood that his past disciplinary history would bring him under scrutiny when he applied for admission as a lawyer.
To his credit, the Applicant continued to be involved in his community both during and after his teaching suspension. He coaches children’s sports, is in a community theatre group, and sings in a barber shop quartet. He sits on the board of Saltcoats Regional Park, and is involved in various other community committees devoted to community services and improvements. From time to time he assists the Saltcoats school’s debate team.
On the subject of the objectionable social media posts, the Applicant acknowledged in correspondence to his former school division which was filed as an exhibit that the Tweets “could fairly be characterized as objectionable in nature, especially in the context of the field of education… For me, my Twitter account was like the stage at a comedy club… I acknowledge that this content is offensive; it was intended as such.” He believed that by using a pseudonym for the Twitter account and by avoiding specific reference to his school, colleagues, and students that somehow his Twitter account was exempt from the rules of his profession. In his viva voce evidence before the panel, the Applicant discussed how at the time he made these posts he was attempting to participate in a comedy community populated by “shock” comedians whom he admired. He readily acknowledged that he gave insufficient regard to how making these kind of jokes could impact his role as a teacher, or how these posts could be hurtful to others. When asked to do so he immediately removed the posts. When asked about his perspective on such shock comedy today, the Applicant testified that he sees no place for that kind of comedic content in his life and that he wishes to contribute in a more positive way to his community.
Society encourages those who have made mistakes to learn from those mistakes, to rehabilitate themselves, and to reintegrate as a contributing member of the community. Mr. Baron has done these things. The decisions of this law society and others, have permitted others who have arguably committed worse transgressions to return to the practice of law. They were given a second chance and this Panel sees no reason to deny Mr. Baron his second chance. We find it is not inimical to the public interest or to the standing of the legal profession to admit Mr. Baron as a Student-at-law.