Calgary

Calgary Board of Education says it's not responsible for abusive teacher, asks judge to dismiss lawsuit

The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit, claiming it is in no way responsible for the alleged sexual misbehaviour of a teacher who admitted to abusing students over the span of more than a decade.

Michael Gregory took his own life 5 days after he was charged with sexual offences against teens

Michael Gregory was a teacher at a Calgary junior high school from 1986 to 2006. Five days after he was charged with sexual offences against students, Gregory died by suicide. Now, several former students are suing Gregory's estate and the Calgary Board of Education. (John Ware Junior High)

The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit, claiming it is in no way responsible for the alleged sexual misbehaviour of a teacher who admitted to abusing students over the span of more than a decade.

Michael Gregory took his own life earlier this year, just days after he was charged with 17 sexual offences against former students.

Last month, three former students launched a proposed $40 million class action lawsuit, naming the former teacher's estate and the CBE as defendants, alleging the staff at the junior high where Gregory taught were well aware of his abusive behaviour.

On Monday, lawyer Jonathan Denis confirmed he'd been served the CBE's statement of defence.

The CBE has asked for "dismissal of the claim, as against CBE, in its entirety."

Denis and co-counsel Mathew Farrell said in a written statement that their clients are "saddened and surprised" at the statement of defence, "especially [at the CBE's] refusal to acknowledge any duty to protect its students."

"Our clients are prepared to have their claims proven in court with the goal that nothing similar ever happens to other students."

'CBE denies each and every allegation'

Gregory admitted that he "mentally and physically abused his students," according to a 2006 Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA) disciplinary decision to revoke his licence.

The ATA found that Gregory "participated in dangerous, demeaning and disrespectful acts with his students."

Still, the CBE is refusing to admit any of the facts.

"CBE denies each and every allegation in the claim," reads the statement of defence.

"CBE denies it owed a duty of care to some and or all of the plaintiffs."

Women say they were 14-years-old when abuse began

Gregory worked at John Ware Junior High from 1986 to 2006 as a math, science and outdoor education teacher.

Last month the lawsuit was filed against Gregory's estate and the Calgary Board of Education by three named plaintiffs who say they were victims of the teacher's abusive behaviour.

The named plaintiffs spoke at a press conference when the lawsuit was filed, and detailed abuse they said they suffered in junior high.

Two women say Gregory sexually assaulted them as 14-year-olds. They say he used classic grooming techniques: first giving the girl extra attention, gifts and innocent touching before turning the relationship predatory and sexual.

The third plaintiff, Cody Bonkowsky, says that when he was a teen, he witnessed some of Gregory's sexually inappropriate behaviours.

'Damages claimed are excessive': CBE

All three said several CBE employees, including a vice principal, were aware that Gregory had sexual relationships with his teen students, yet nothing was done beyond moving girls out of his classes.

Bonkowsky said Gregory "never hid it," and explained it was commonplace for the teacher to be seen with girls in his truck coming and going from the school.

He was also known to sleep in a tent with teens from his classes while on outdoor excursions, according to the lawsuit.

The statement of defence argues the girls were not within the care of supervision of the CBE but if there is a finding made that conflicts with that, then the "CBE was unaware of the alleged misconduct."

Finally, the CBE's said that if its other defences are unsuccessful and the plaintiffs are entitled to damages, "then the damages claimed are excessive."

The investigation continued after police announced the criminal charges and after Gregory's death. Calgary police say they have heard from 10 new victims and 35 new witnesses since February.

Lawyer Jonathan Denis says his firm has also had more women come forward alleging abuse since the lawsuit was launched.

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