Following revelations from a child abuse case involving a former Calgary teacher, Alberta’s education minister said she plans to remove the disciplinary process role from the Alberta Teachers’ Association.
According to a news release Thursday, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange has directed her staff to draft legislation to be tabled in the spring that will separate the teacher disciplinary process from the mandate and functions of the ATA.
LaGrange said the ATA will also need to notify the registrar at Alberta Education of all complaints about the union’s membership when they are filed.
“Like many Albertans, I was horrified when I first read the details of allegations brought forward regarding a former Calgary Board of Education teacher,” LaGrange said in a statement. “I was also appalled that the Alberta Teachers’ Association did not believe they had an obligation to report its disciplinary findings to police.”
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Michael Gregory, a former teacher at the Calgary Board of Education, was charged in February with 17 counts of sexual assault and sexual exploitation.
The case never made it to trial as just days later, police said Gregory had died and his death was not believed to be criminal.
Last week, three former students of Gregory’s filed a $40-million class-action lawsuit alleging abuse by Gregory.
The statement of claim also alleges administrators and staff with the public school board were aware of the accusations but did nothing.
Gregory’s teaching licence was suspended in 2006 following an ATA investigation and the claim alleges the findings were never reported to police.
“Unfortunately, this episode clearly demonstrates that the ATA failed to protect students from a predatory teacher,” LaGrange said.
“As the minister of education, I consider it my moral obligation to do everything in my power to fix the broken system that has let our children and their families down for so long.”
The statement of claim has not been proven in court.
In response, the ATA called LaGrange’s proposals an attack “to dismantle Alberta’s teaching profession.”
ATA president Jason Schilling said the minister is “spinning” a 15-year-old discipline case as a “cover for the vindictive attack on teachers.”
“In this case, only one party did the job it was supposed to do, and that was the Alberta Teachers’ Association. As a result of our processes, this teacher was removed from the profession and never taught again,” Schilling said in a statement.
According to Schilling’s statement, the government also didn’t report the allegations against Gregory to police when the province received the report on the ATA disciplinary hearing.
“This is why teachers and an increasing number of ordinary Albertans just have no trust in this minister and the government’s agenda for education,” Schilling said.
The ATA shared a column from its executive secretary on its website as well.
“To begin with, while allegations of unprofessional conduct regarding Gregory were brought to the association’s attention 15 years ago, those allegations did not include the sexual offences with which he was more recently charged,” Dennis Theobald wrote.
“The allegations made in 2006 were serious, were substantiated through our investigation and led to the teacher being charged and ultimately found guilty,” he wrote.
In a statement to Global News, LaGrange’s office said she cannot speak for the actions of previous governments, and stood by the incoming changes.
“We cannot speak to the actions of previous ministers or governments, but this case has highlighted the fact that action needs to be taken to fix the broken process that failed to put students first,” a spokesperson with the education ministry wrote in a statement.
LaGrange said she would be updating Albertans on the situation as the work moves forward.
— with files from Global News’ Kaylen Small and The Canadian Press