Disgraced Calgary teacher admitted abusive behaviour 15 years before charges: ATA ruling
Calgary teacher Michael Gregory — who took his own life after being charged with 17 counts of sexual assault against former students earlier this year — admitted to abusive behaviour in 2006, according to an Alberta Teachers' Association disciplinary ruling.
But that information was not forwarded to Calgary police, which the ATA was not obligated to do.
- Warning: this story involves sexual assault, which may be triggering to some readers
Gregory made the admissions in an agreed statement of fact submitted as part of a two-day hearing, held in March and May 2006 which resulted in his teaching licence being suspended.
In it, he admitted to "incidents of inappropriate behaviour," which included an inappropriate relationship with two female junior high school students with whom he discussed his emotional, health and marital issues.
The ruling says he "initiated and participated in frequent text messaging, e-mailing and phoning at all hours of the day and night; and speculated how it would be to have a sexual relationship with them."
Along with providing students with alcohol, he also admitted to discussing the body types of some female students and inappropriate physical contact that included throwing rocks and even a dead fish at students while on a school canoe trip, as well as wrestling students to the ground and "pounding on them to teach them a lesson."
A $40 million class action lawsuit was filed last week against the Calgary Board of Education and the estate of Michael Gregory, who taught at John Ware Junior High School between 1986 and 2006.
In February, Gregory was charged with 17 counts of sexual assault and sexual exploitation. He died by suicide days after the charges were announced by the Calgary Police Service.
Police say an additional 10 victims and 35 witnesses reached out to investigators after initial charges were made public and that the investigation against Gregory remains open.
He pleaded guilty in 2006 to two counts of unprofessional conduct and his teaching certificate was suspended for two years, one for each count.
The ATA released a statement Tuesday.
"The nature of many of the allegations that surfaced more recently in relation to Michael Gregory were not part of the case heard by the professional conduct hearing committee in 2006," it read.
"The purpose of the Association’s professional conduct review process is to determine whether a member’s conduct meets the expectations of the profession for acceptable conduct as a teacher.
"The conduct committee found Mr. Gregory guilty of unprofessional conduct and suspended his membership in the Alberta Teachers’ Association, rendering him unable to teach in a public, separate or Francophone school in Alberta. Teachers suspended by the Association are not automatically reinstated and must apply to regain the ability to become a member. The burden of proof at this stage is on the suspended member to demonstrate their ability and commitment to maintain professional standards.
"As a result of our process, Mr. Gregory was removed from the profession and never taught again.
"Our records indicate that the RCMP was aware of Mr. Gregory and elements of the case heard by the committee. The CBE was also well aware of the allegations put before the hearing committee. The role of the Association is to receive complaints and assess those complaints relative to standards for teaching. If we were to initiate a complaint in another arena, it could lead to an apprehension of bias and potentially jeopardise the outcomes of our legislative processes."
Kirk Jensen, who was chair of the ATA's Professional Conduct Committee at the time and was part of the hearing, said the group "followed the procedures in place at the time."
"I do not know why it would not have been reported criminally before it even got to professional conduct," he said.
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange issued a statement late Tuesday afternoon.
“Like many Albertans, I was extremely concerned to hear the allegations that have been brought forward regarding a former Calgary Board of Education teacher. Out of respect for the legal process that needs to take place, I cannot comment further on specifics of this case. It is my expectation that the Calgary Board of Education fully cooperate with any investigation or legal proceedings that may take place," it read.
"Sexual assault and sexual misconduct of any kind is completely unacceptable. It is especially concerning when the matter involves a child and even more so when a teacher or school staff member is involved.
"We trust teachers with our children every day and when this trust is broken, it needs to be taken seriously, and action needs to happen. That’s why just last week we passed The Students First Act. This legislation is a first step to improve the process for students, victims and their families, and towards improving student safety. While this legislation will move the dial and shine a light on this issue -- more can and should be done."
LaGrange added she expects the ATA and any school authority to forward any allegations of criminal behaviour to police.
"If this is not currently happening, I will not hesitate to take action to mandate it," she said.
"I am absolutely committed to further improving the teacher discipline process. To be clear, nothing is off the table when it comes to student safety.”
A province-wide support system for victims of sexual assault is available in Alberta at 1-866-403-8000 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. MT, seven-days-a-week, in more than 200 languages, including Cree.
Read the 2006 ATA ruling below: