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Provincial Court Judge John Douglas got it right when he emphasized that Roger Jabbour’s sex offences were a breach of trust.
Douglas recently convicted and sentenced Jabbour to 15 months in jail for sexual interference and sexual exploitation involving three female students while he was the music teacher at Colonel Gray High School in Charlottetown.
He was acquitted in relation to a fourth complainant, but the Crown prosecution is appealing that decision.
Why is it a breach of trust? Quite simply, parents drop off their kids each day for school, and put their well-being in the hands of teachers, staff and administrators.
We trust them with our children. Nothing can be more sacred, and their safety needs to be absolute.
As we quickly learned from Jabbour’s matters, the school system failed to keep these female complainants safe.
As heard in court, Colonel Gray High School’s principal at the time Kevin Whitrow told police Jabbour had three to four complaints a year over an approximate seven-year period. Apparently Whitrow dealt with the complaints through meetings with the parents and Jabbour.
But the complaints weren’t documented or recorded for Jabbour’s file.
This is a shocking admission by a high school principal, and unacceptable in any workplace.
At the very least, the public deserves an investigation into the school’s professional handling of Jabbour’s matters, and the results of the investigation must be public.
This could also be part of a larger inquiry into what happened followed by recommendations of preventing it from happening again.
But it needs to go even beyond that into a review of the practices of all schools in the province as well as the role that unions might play keeping complaints from being documented or critical information released to the public.
In December, concerns were raised in the P.E.I. legislature by the Progressive Conservative Party, not only with respect to Jabbour but also with Stonepark Intermediate vice-principal Greg Campbell, who was charged and convicted of criminal harassment.
One issue raised involved better communication with parents in cases when a staff member is being investigated.
But better monitoring of school programs, such as music and theatre, needs to improve. These are unique programs in that they extend beyond school hours and often involve extracurricular activities, such as rehearsals for musicals or plays. There tends to be a more personal connection with students and teachers in these programs, more so than with a student and a math teacher, for example.
One of the troubling revelations in court was the times that Jabbour was alone with the female students, sometimes after school hours in his office or another room when most of the adults had left for the day.
Is there a policy that requires that another adult has to be present with after-hours programs? These are critical issues which need to be addressed by the Public Schools Branch and the Department of Education to ensure these incidents never happen again.
Our kid’s safety is too important.