Leonard Lethebe is shown here in an undated photo. ((Courtesy of the Wabasca Fever newspaper))

A former high school principal has been found guilty on three counts of unprofessional conduct by the Alberta Teachers' Association for having sex with one of his students at a high school in Wabasca, Alta.

Leonard Lethebe was the principal at Mistassiniy School when he started the relationship with the girl, who was then 17, between September 2007 and December 2008.   The panel took less than ten minutes to reach its unanimous decision late Tuesday afternoon.

The panel has declared him ineligible for membership in the ATA and fined him $5,000. They are also recommending the province's education minister cancel his teaching certificate.

In a signed declaration, Lethebe pleaded not guilty to professional misconduct on one count of having sexual intercourse with the girl between May and July 2008, because he believed she was not a student when their sexual relationship began.

Angry and betrayed

One person who spoke at the hearing Tuesday was an aunt of the student. She said she felt angry and betrayed when she learned of the relationship and the pregnancy, and launched a formal complaint.

The woman also told the hearing she has forgiven Lethebe and now considers him a member of the family.

Still, she told the hearing: "What he did was wrong. He knows it. We know it."

The last witness at the hearing was the young woman at the centre of the allegations who told the panel that Lethebe is the father of her infant child.

The 20-year-old woman — whom CBC News is not identifying — told the hearing there was no chance anyone else could be the father of the infant, who is now nearly one. She also told the hearing she was not a student when the sexual relationship began.

"I know I was 18," she said. "I made the decision. I was out of school."

On Monday, the hearing was presented with a declaration signed by Lethebe in which he pleaded guilty to two of three counts of unprofessional conduct — that he engaged in a romantic relationship with the student between September 2007 and December 2008 and that he had an inappropriate relationship with the student during that same time period.

Lethebe, who did not attend the hearing, was placed on leave by the Northland School Division in October 2008. 

"I feel very sorry for the student, and for the profession," said Robert Bisson, coordinator of member services for the ATA.

"We need to ensure that this does not happen, and it's very difficult to recognize that this has happened, and I think all we can do is ensure the public that we will deal with it, and we will deal with as strongly as we possibly can," he said.