Court documents allege ‘negligence’ by staff in sex assault case of former Calgary teacher

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WATCH: New court documents connected to the proposed class action lawsuit involving former teacher Michael Gregory have been filed. In a report by an education expert, it’s alleged there was a culture of protecting the teacher at the expense of the safety of children. Jill Croteau has the latest. – Jan 25, 2022

New information has come to light in an alleged sex abuse case involving a former junior high school teacher.

Michael Gregory was a junior high school teacher at Calgary’s John Ware School from 1986 to 2006. Days after he was charged with sexual offences against students, Gregory took his own life.

Michael Gregory is charged with six counts of sexual assault and 11 counts of sexual exploitation. Obtained by Global News

A proposed class action lawsuit against Gregory’s estate and the Calgary Board of Education has been launched. The allegations have not yet been proven in court.

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Read more: Calgary school board and estate of dead teacher face sexual assault lawsuit

On Tuesday, new documents were filed in court relating to the case. A report authored by Christine Cusanelli detailed her expert opinion.

She wrote a lengthy report regarding the reasonable conduct that would be taken by a school administrator in the context of the allegations of sexual misconduct by a teacher. Cusanelli is a specialist in the field of educational leadership and school legislation, serving over 20 years as a school educator, guidance counsellor and school principal.

“Protecting students was not a priority and the administration’s response to students and their parents coming forward was inadequate,” Cusanelli wrote.

“Principals communicate to teachers, administrators, and school volunteers and have a legal obligation to report cases of child abuse; suspected or disclosed. In my opinion, they, along with other any personnel who observed Mr. Gregory’s inappropriate behavior and remained silent are negligent in their duty to protect children.”

Cusanelli’s report reads: “Since he was never formally reprimanded for his behavior and somehow escaped accountability for decades, it may be that he was equally coercive with the staff who seemed to accept his behaviors and dismiss them out of hand. As a result, Mr. Gregory became emboldened in his increasingly risky pursuits that eventually led to sexual abuse as alleged by his victims.

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“A culture of protecting this teacher may have come at the expense of the safety of children.

“It is my opinion that a serious lack of knowledge by administration and teachers about the rights of children and policies enabled a predator to create for himself, an environment in which to prey on vulnerable children,” Cusanelli wrote.

Read more: 20 more students allege sexual assault against former Calgary teacher Michael Gregory

The Calgary Board of Education has denied knowledge of Gregory’s alleged abuse insisting it had no idea, asking the suit be dropped.

Kari Grant was a student of Gregory’s between 1997 and 2000. She is part of the proposed lawsuit.

“When you’re a young girl, these people are your guardians and you rely on them to do what is right by you,” Grant said. “They should have been taking care of us and they weren’t taking care of us and they turned their backs on us, just like they are turning their backs on us now.”

Grant said she has no doubt staff were aware of the inappropriate and predatory behaviour of Gregory.

“These things happened in their hallways, in their classrooms, in front of their faces,” Grant said. “These things weren’t in a dark closet, these things were in front of them.

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Kari Grant. Jill Croteau/Global News

“I fully believe this stuff wouldn’t have happened and could have avoided hundreds of cases of abuses if just that one time something was reported and action taken. They failed.”

Other former schoolmates have alleged Gregory took students on unsanctioned trips, was alone with them in his classroom with the door locked, invited them to his home and drove them to school.

Kelly Schneider, one of the original representative plaintiffs, said she went to school staff regarding the manipulation by Gregory.

Kelly Schneider, a former student of Michael Gregory, looks at a yearbook from Calgary’s John Ware school on Jan. 20, 2022. Global News

“My parents and I went to the school with a box of items he had given me as gifts and put it on the vice principal’s desk and said: ‘Please explain what is happening to my daughter.'” Schneider recalled.

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“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about this,” Grant said. “I have spent my whole adulthood trying to bury this and it takes everything I have to be a better person and not let this destroy me.”

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