Board, school must ad­dress crim­i­nal is­sue

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL -

The English Lan­guage School Board must take im­me­di­ate ac­tion to deal with the vice-prin­ci­pal of Stonepark In­ter­me­di­ate who pleaded guilty last week to two crim­i­nal ha­rass­ment charges.

Par­ents of stu­dents at­tend­ing the ju­nior high are de­mand­ing that he be re­moved from the class­room. They can’t imag­ine any stu­dent want­ing him to re­main in the education sys­tem.

It’s in­suf­fi­cient for the board and its su­per­in­ten­dent Cyn­thia Fleet to stay silent “be­cause it’s a per­son­nel mat­ter.” It’s well past that Ms. Fleet. Trial cov­er­age was re­ported ex­ten­sively in The Guardian. The board can’t just avoid the is­sue.

It’s a mat­ter of pub­lic con­cern. Par­ents have le­git­i­mate is­sues about a teacher — with a re­cent crim­i­nal record — in the class­room.

The teacher was to chap­er­one a bus tour of stu­dents to Que­bec this week. An­gry par­ents in­ter­vened to en­sure this didn’t hap­pen.

If there is a board pol­icy on this sit­u­a­tion, what is it? Was it fol­lowed? And if there isn’t a pol­icy, why in the heck not? Where does the P.E.I. Teach­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion stand on this? What is their pol­icy?

With­out go­ing into the specifics, the board, Ms. Fleet, and Stonepark prin­ci­pal Nor­man Beck find them­selves on the horns of a dilemma. There is a per­cep­tion they are more in­ter­ested in pro­tect­ing a teacher over the con­cerns of stu­dents and par­ents.

The vice-prin­ci­pal pleaded guilty last week to two crim­i­nal charges of ha­rass­ment in­volv­ing an adult woman. De­tails pro­vided at trial re­vealed an un­set­tling por­trait of a man who for months ha­rassed and ter­ror­ized the vic­tim.

The news came as a shock to par­ents and stu­dents. It was far past the point of irony that the teacher was in­struct­ing a healthy re­la­tion­ship pro­gram and saw noth­ing wrong with his own be­hav­iour. There was no apol­ogy . . . no re­grets.

He is not a per­son that par­ents want to see in the class­room in­struct­ing their chil­dren.

Did the board or school know of the pend­ing charges? Did they take any steps to re­move the teacher from the class­room and put him on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave un­til the trial was de­cided?

Were par­ents even in­formed that a crim­i­nal is­sue was pend­ing or that the school and board were on top of things to ease any con­cerns?

Yes, we firmly be­lieve in in­no­cent un­til proven guilty but we’re well past that point now. We have two guilty pleas and tes­ti­mony of dis­turb­ing be­hav­iour.

A sen­tenc­ing hear­ing is set for March 8. Par­ents need as­sur­ances that the is­sue is be­ing dealt with now. They are not in­ter­ested in wait­ing to see what sen­tence is handed down and what ac­tion the board might take in six weeks time.

There is a lack of lead­er­ship be­ing demon­strated here. Will the min­is­ter of education have to step in?

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