An Alberta Teachers Association investigation into the conduct of a teacher who allegedly sexually abused high school students for years concluded in 2006 that he had “mentally and physically abused his students,” but did not pass that information on to the police.
Three alumni filed a $ 40 million lawsuit this week alleging that Michael Gregory, once a teacher at John Ware High School in Calgary, groomed and sexually abused hundreds of children between at least 1989 and 2005.
“The plaintiffs contend that from the period of at least 1989 to 2005, Michael Gregory … literally sexually assaulted more than 200 students,” said Jonathan Denis, an attorney representing the group in a lawsuit filed by Guardian Law Group LLP, in a press conference on Monday. .
In 2006, an investigation by the Alberta Teachers Association, the provincial professional body, ended when Gregory pleaded guilty to “failing to treat students with dignity and respect” between 1992 and 2005.
He also pleaded guilty to failing to “maintain the honor and dignity of the profession,” according to a copy of the association’s disciplinary decision, which was obtained by Estrella.
The association’s professional conduct committee determined that Gregory had “mentally and physically abused his students,” as well as “coerced and manipulated the students for his own benefit,” according to the documents.
Meanwhile, the new lawsuit alleges that Gregory was also grooming and sexually abusing students. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit say that school officials failed to act when informed of Gregory’s behavior and that he openly exhibited his misconduct by the school.
Experts have said the case underscores the need for an independent body to deal with such misconduct allegations brought against teachers.
Information about Gregory from the 2006 Alberta Teachers Association investigation was not relayed to the Calgary Police Service, a police spokesman said. The first complaint reached Calgary police in 2020, they added, prompting charges to be filed in 2021.
A statement Tuesday from Jonathan Teghtmeyer, a communications officer for the association, said that “the nature” of “many of the allegations that surfaced more recently” regarding Gregory were not part of the 2006 investigation.
“The role of the association is to receive complaints and evaluate those complaints in relation to the standards for teaching,” he said. “If we were to initiate a complaint elsewhere, it could lead to an apprehension of bias and potentially jeopardize the results of our legislative processes.”
However, the association’s records suggest that “the RCMP was aware of Mr. Gregory and the elements of the case heard by the committee,” Teghtmeyer said.
“The (Calgary Board of Education) was also aware of the allegations brought before the hearing committee,” he added.
Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said in a statement sent to the Star that she expects the association to send information on “any instance involving criminal charges or potentially criminal conduct” to police.
“If this is not happening currently, I will not hesitate to take steps to demand it,” he said.
In early 2021, Gregory died on Quadra Island in British Columbia in an apparent suicide just days after he was charged with 17 counts of sex crimes involving six former students.
Since then, Calgary police say 35 witnesses have presented information, as well as 10 other victims.
The three former students named as plaintiffs in the proposed class action lawsuit said that Gregory never concealed his behavior and that the Calgary Board of Education, one of the defendants in the claim statement along with Gregory’s estate, should be held accountable for not investigate and act on the information reported about their conduct.
During a press conference Monday, the alumni group alleged that Gregory groomed 14- and 15-year-old girls by giving them gifts, spending time with them outside of school, and making inappropriate comments.
Sex would develop between Gregory and the young students, which included sexual intercourse, the plaintiffs said.
The 2006 decision of the professional conduct committee states that Gregory would be declared ineligible for membership in the association for one year and that the minister of education would be recommended to suspend his teaching certificate for one year. The consequences were to be consecutive for two years, but Gregory did not teach again afterward.
Eryn MacKenzie, one of the three plaintiffs named in the lawsuit and a student at the school from 1999 to 2002, said that when she was in grades 8 and 9, Gregory became interested in her while battling self-harm and bulimia. He groomed her, made inappropriate comments and sexual requests of her, the claim statement says.
The two were spending more and more time together, and eventually she “spent most of her free time with him,” according to the complaint. “Eventually this led to sexual contact and ultimately oral sex and digital penetration,” he added.
When another student learned of the relationship between Gregory and MacKenzie, Gregory allegedly said that “if word got out, he would have to commit suicide” and “texted him with a picture of a firearm.”
Gregory then suggested that she be the one to kill herself, according to the claim statement, which MacKenzie tried that night for overdosing, but “freaked out and forced herself to vomit.”
The 2006 Alberta Teachers Association decision similarly found that he “put students at risk for being in possession of a firearm while having suicidal thoughts.”
“Gregory was deceptive and manipulative with the students when he coerced them to come to his aid,” it said.