‘I find it unacceptable’: Alberta education minister slams association in wake of allegations that one teacher abused 200 children

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“Nothing is wrong,” says Edmonton-Alberta’s education minister, following revelations that the province’s teachers’ union had not reported one of its members to the police, who admitted that he had “made his students mentally and physically ill.” was physically abused.”

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This week, a proposed $40 million class-action lawsuit was filed alleging that former junior high teacher Michael Gregory abused nearly 200 children between 1989 and 2005 at John Ware Junior High in Calgary.

The lawsuit, filed by alumni, named the estate of Gregory, who died this year, and named the Calgary Board of Education as a defendant.

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It emerged that in 2006, the Alberta Teachers Association investigated Gregory and found that he had abused children at John Ware Junior High. He “coerced and manipulated students for his own benefit,” an investigation concluded. But that information was not given to the police in 2006.

“As clearly highlighted by this case, the teacher discipline process needs to be reformed,” Education Minister Adriana LaGrange told reporters on Wednesday.

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A statement from the Alberta Teachers Association said this week that “the role of the association is to receive complaints and assess those complaints relative to standards of teaching.”

“If we initiate a complaint in any other area, it could create fears of bias and potentially jeopardize the results of our legislative processes,” the spokesperson said.

But LaGrange said she expects “absolutely” that “in any instance involving criminal charges, or potentially criminal behavior, that the ATA and school officials communicate that information to the appropriate authorities as soon as possible.”

“I think it’s unacceptable for an organization to say, ‘This isn’t my problem,'” she said. “We are currently investigating what other actions we can take to guarantee student safety in the classroom.”

The Alberta Teachers Association also stated that the “nature” of the “many allegations that have recently surfaced” regarding Gregory were not part of the 2006 investigation.

Currently, there is no mandate for the ATA to publicly report findings of teacher abuse in Alberta. Some provinces – including Ontario and British Columbia – have professional bodies that publicly publish findings of teacher misconduct on an ongoing basis.

Alberta recently passed Student First Act Bill 85, which aims to help change the situation in the province and set up an online portal where teacher certificate status for individuals working in the profession can be found. LaGrange said, however, that the fact that the ATA did not inform police of Gregory’s conduct in 2006 was evidence that more needed to be done.

Jonathan Teghtmayer, a communications officer for the ATA, said the association would not oppose the kinds of changes the minister suggested on Wednesday, depending on how they were implemented.

“It is very rare for us to have the first point of complaint in these cases, especially when criminal charges are involved,” Teghtmeier said.

In Gregory’s 2006 case, he was to be disqualified for membership of the association for two years and a recommendation had to be made to the Minister of Education that his teaching certificate be suspended for two years. Gregory did not return to teach until later.

Experts have said that the case underscores the need for an independent body to deal with the allegations against teachers.

In the proposed class-action lawsuit, plaintiffs say that Gregory groomed and sexually abused minors for years and that school officials failed to act.

According to the plaintiffs, he used to make inappropriate remarks towards girl students who were minors, requesting them to perform sexual acts, give them gifts and go on excursions with them. According to the statement of claim, sexual abuse will follow.

In the court proceedings, three plaintiffs say that Gregory never concealed his behavior at the school and are seeking accountability from the Calgary Board of Education.

In early 2021, Gregory died in an apparent suicide on Quadra Island in British Columbia after he was charged with 17 counts of sex-related crimes involving six former students. Police say that their first complaint came in 2020, which sparked the investigation.

Since then, Calgary police say 35 witnesses have come forward with the information, plus an additional 10 victims. The investigation continues.

The number of victims, 200 cited in the trial, has not been publicly confirmed by officials.

Improvement — December 1, 2021 — This story has been updated to correct the length of time announced by the Alberta Teachers Association Michael Gregory ineligible for membership.

Kieran Levitt is an Edmonton-based political reporter for the Toronto Star. Follow him on Twitter: @kieranleavitt



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