Concerns were raised Wednesday in the P.E.I. legislature about a lack of notification given to parents and students in two recent legal cases in which Island teachers were charged with criminal offences.
Opposition MLA Steven Myers raised the cases of Stonepark Intermediate vice-principal Greg Campbell, who was charged and convicted of criminal harassment, as well as recent charges laid against Colonel Gray Senior High band teacher Roger Jabbour, who is facing multiple charges of sexual assault and sexual interference.
In both cases, the educators were placed on leave after allegations were brought forward, Education Minister Jordan Brown told the legislature Wednesday.
But Myers says he’s been getting calls from concerned parents who are upset they only learned about charges laid against a teacher in their child’s school from reports in the media.
He questioned Brown on what requirements exist to notify parents and staff when criminal investigations and charges have been laid against teachers working in P.E.I. schools.
“The most recent case, some pretty serious charges have been made and I think the parents deserved to know long before it made the media,” Myers said, referring to the Jabbour case.
“Your staff initially told parents that the teacher was put out on medical leave and that he had a sore back, not that they were the focus of ongoing investigation into sexual assault and interference involving youth.”
Brown explained the Public Schools Branch, which oversees operations of Island schools, has policies in place that dictate how it handles issues such as when teachers are placed on administrative leave.
But as to why parents and staff were not notified about charges laid against these two teachers, Brown said there is a “balancing that needs to occur when this type of event takes place.”
“You have to keep in mind there’s a presumption of innocence and we can’t be going off making statements that don’t have a foundation in fact,” Brown said.
He noted the police were involved in a formal investigation against Jabbour after allegations were brought forward – allegations the Public Schools Branch took very seriously, Brown said.
“Ultimately the individual was placed on administrative leave. There was no time after those allegations were made that he was in the classroom, and ultimately that matter went through the courts and the Public Schools Branch dealt with the matter without having the member back in the classroom.”
Police issued a release on Sept. 7 saying they had arrested a 65-year-old Charlottetown man following a four-month investigation. The police news released did not name the individual, who was later confirmed in the courts to be Jabbour.
A spokesperson for the province says the PSB was made aware on Friday, June 16, of “a concern relating to the individual who is alleged to have committed the offences in question.” On Sunday, June 18, he was told not to return to class and subsequently placed on administrative leave.
“The teacher has not returned to school since,” the spokeswoman said.
But Myers says neither the police nor the school informed parents that a teacher was being charged with criminal offences. He called for a change in policy to allow for more communication with parents when situations like this arise in P.E.I. schools.
“Your policy is broken,” he said.
“Parents are coming to us and saying, ‘What happened? How come we weren’t notified when this happened?’ Question to the education minister - will you commit to reviewing your policies?”
Brown said the safety and protection of students is the most important consideration in these situations, but did not commit to any changes in policy.