UPDATE DEC. 17,2003 2:45PM: The South Shore Regional school board has given me an accounting of its legal costs. It totals $163,000. That's in addition to the settlement it paid Peter Speight. Read the update story here
The South Shore Regional School Board has finally won its battle to keep
Peter Speight out of the classroom, but it's a victory that will cost taxpayers
The board has agreed to pay Speight about $160,000 in back pay, plus an
undisclosed amount of money, to give up his legal fight to get both his job and
teacher's certificate back.
But that's not the end of it.
After a prolonged legal battle the board is also on the hook for tens of
thousands of dollars in legal bills. And the province has legal bills to pay as
This all started back in 2009 when the board fired Speight just weeks after
he pleaded guilty to willfully engaging in indecent acts. At the time Speight had
been teaching for less than four years, mostly on contracts, and had only been a
staff teacher for eight months.
Speight was caught luring woman to his car while he exposed himself and
masturbated. The judge gave Speight a conditional sentence.
That sentence, which leaves Speight without a criminal record, opened the
door for him to begin his legal challenge.
What followed was an eight-day arbitration hearing. The board had to hire
lawyers to prepare submissions, research legal precedents and to represent them
at the lengthy hearing. It all adds up to a ton of billable hours.
The arbitrator, respected law professor Bruce Archibald, decided Speight
deserved a second chance.
Citing glowing performance reports, Speight's remorse and his involvement
in therapy, Archibald reduced Speight's discipline to a one year suspension, and
ordered the board to re-hire him.
The board refused and applied for a judicial review by the Supreme Court of
Again the board's lawyers had to spend hours preparing detailed legal
submissions and presenting arguments before the court. Thousands more were spent
on mounting legal bills, but again the board lost. The court found no reason in
law to overturn the arbitrator's decision.
While this was happening the province was fighting its own legal battles.
After Speight's conviction the department of education revoked his
teacher's certificate. Speight challenged that, too. An arbitration hearing was
held, and the province lost; it was ordered to reinstate his certificate. The
province's lawyers were in the process of appealing that decision to the Supreme
Court when the board reached its settlement agreement with Speight.
But while taxpayers are paying the legal bills for both the province and
the school board, it's likely this complicated and protracted legal process
didn't cost Speight a penny.
Speight is a member of the Nova Scotia Teachers' Union. A spokesperson for
the board refused to comment on whether the union paid Speight's lawyers but
said all members are entitled to legal representation.
So now it's over.
Speight won't teach again, at least not in Nova Scotia, and the parents at
New Germany elementary won't have a man who pleaded guilty to indecent acts
teaching their children.
While the board won't reveal the full amount of the settlement, it looks
like Speight will walk away with a cheque approaching a quarter of a million
The lawyers will walk away with a handsome payday.
And Nova Scotia taxpayers are left holding a massive bill.