Ontario teacher guilty of professional misconduct for anti-COVID social media posts

Marissa Lentz
Local Journalism Initiative

A Northern Ontario teacher who discouraged people from wearing masks and getting vaccinated during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic is facing disciplinary action.

At a Feb. 16 Ontario College of Teachers hearing, Annalisa Kay Schmoll, also known as Annalisa Kay Meyer and Annalisa Selmeci, pled guilty to professional misconduct for incidents between April and June 2021. Schmoll must complete a course regarding professional boundaries with a focus on the appropriate use of social media at her own expense by June.

She was working as an occasional teacher for District School Board Ontario North East (DSB1) at the time of the incidents and is currently employed by the Huron Superior Catholic District School Board as an occasional teacher. 

TimminsToday reached out to DSB1 and Schmoll’s legal counsel. The respective comments have not been received yet.

Over three months in 2021, the discipline committee decision says Schmoll posted and reposted statements about COVID-19  on her Facebook page, which was public at the time and identified her as working for DSB1.

Schmoll’s posts discouraged people from wearing masks or getting vaccinated and complying with government and other official directives about such measures. The posts also emphasized that vaccines were unsafe for children and compared restrictions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic to directives from Nazis. 

One of Schmoll’s posts read, “Recommending an experimental and unapproved injection for children is unethical, unscientific, immoral, and wrong,” while another read, “Adults telling kids to wear masks have no idea the damage they’re inflicting. Adults might think children can handle the mask wearing but they do not understand that children need twice as much oxygen to function normally as adults.”

She also shared memes about transgender athletes and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The latter of which was to draw attention to “what she interpreted as failures of the Trudeau government, and did not consider that they were discriminatory against immigrants and refugees.”

The posts were reported by concerned members of the public 

DSB1 investigated and issued a letter of expectation to her that said she is entitled to freedom of speech, and noted that “some of the comments posted would be viewed as inappropriate and as a result could be offensive to certain individuals.”

The board also stated in its letter that because she identified as a teacher working for the board, her anti-masking commentary “openly challenged the direction of the Ministry of Education and ultimately the board.”

The OCT disciplinary panel said Schmoll’s claims “were false, misleading, and capable of causing readers to be reluctant to comply with prevailing public health measures to address the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

Schmoll has since deleted the posts. However, the panel found that she violated the professional and ethical standards of the teaching profession. 

“The member’s prompt action in removing her posts when the misconduct was brought to her attention does not excuse her failure to make responsible public statements with the understanding that teachers are held to a higher standard of behaviour in light of their privileged position in society,” reads the document.

The panel said Schmoll’s “deeply offensive behaviour created an unsafe learning environment for students of diverse backgrounds and beliefs and has no place in Ontario’s school system and community.” 

The decision notes that teachers are expected to treat students equitably and be sensitive to factors influencing learning.

“Members should also be current in their knowledge and incorporate ethics, research and policies in their professional judgment,” reads the decision. 

In its decision, the panel said the professional boundary course focusing on social media will help Schmoll.

“The coursework will remind the member of her obligations as a teacher and will help her to make better decisions in any future interactions with students and online,” they wrote.