Toronto school board boss resigns after admitting to plagiarism

Chris Spence has stepped down as head of the Toronto school board and says he is 'ashamed and embarrassed' by revelations that he plagiarized parts of an opinion piece he wrote for the Toronto Star.

The director of education at Canada's largest school board has learned a costly lesson preached by teachers in classrooms across the country: Never pass off another’s work as your own.

Chris Spence resigned Thursday as director of education at the Toronto District School Board after admitting he plagiarized parts of an opinion article he wrote for the Toronto Star about the importance of school sports.

In a statement Thursday, Spence said:

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.

Spence said that as an adult and an educator “I should know better,” and indicated his behavior set a bad example for the nearly 250,000 students in the Toronto school district.

He also said he would enroll in a journalism ethics course at Ryerson University.

Spence’s downfall came a day after the Toronto Star reported that the opinion article Spence wrote, titled “Without school sports, everyone loses,” borrowed passages from other sources, including two paragraphs directly taken from the New York Times.

Chris Bolton, chairman of Toronto school board, said Spence’s resignation is effective immediately.

“Given the unexpected nature of this situation, we are taking steps to appoint an interim Director to ensure stability across the system,” Bolton said in a statement.

The Toronto District School Board has nearly 600 schools. As its top official, The Star reports that Spence was paid $272,000 a year.

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