Saskatoon

Saskatoon teacher gives up certificate after inappropriate relationship with student

Matthew Tumbach, who taught at Tommy Douglas Collegiate from 2011 to 2017, engaged in a relationship with a student at the school, according to a complaint resolution agreement with Saskatchewan's teaching regulator.

Matt Tumbach taught at Tommy Douglas and Centennial Collegiate in Saskatoon

The head office of the Saskatoon Public School Division can be seen in this CBC file photo. (Florence Hwang/CBC )

A Saskatoon educator has surrendered his teaching certificate for 10 years after having an inappropriate relationship with a student while teaching for the Saskatoon Public School Division, according to a complaint resolution agreement from Saskatchewan's teaching regulator.

Matthew Tumbach taught at Tommy Douglas Collegiate between January 2011 and August 2017, and became engaged in a relationship with a student at the school that was initially non-sexual.

But he did have a sexual encounter with the student after the student had graduated, according to a December 2020 consensual complaint resolution agreement with the Saskatchewan Professional Teachers Regulatory Board.

Reached by email about the resolution, Tumbach said he did not feel it was appropriate to comment at this time, noting he wasn't sure he had anything to add beyond what's detailed in the resolution.

'Trusting relationship'

It says that as a teacher at the school, Tumbach engaged the student, identified only as "Student A," in a "trusting relationship" that was non-sexual, while the student attended the school from 2011 to 2013, when the student graduated.

The relationship started with tea in Tumbach's office, but he later started exchanging Facebook messages with the student. Eventually, the two exchanged numbers and started to converse via text message, with communication continuing "on and off" between June 2011 and October 2014.

Matthew Tumbach taught at Tommy Douglas between January 2011 and August 2017, during which time he engaged one of his students in what the resolution calls a 'trusting relationship.' (CBC)

The student visited Tumbach's house on at least two occasions, in 2011 and 2012, with the two continuing to meet during the 2012-2013 school year.

In October 2014, after graduating, the student invited Tumbach to a local bar. After a few drinks, the two returned to his home and had sex, according to the resolution agreement.

A handbook from Centennial Collegiate indicates Tumbach went on to teach at Centennial Collegiate during the 2018-19 school year.

The allegations of misconduct against Tumbach were raised by his employer in June 2020, at which time he resigned from his position and surrendered his teaching certificate. It's unclear if he was employed at Centennial at the time.

Inappropriate relationship: registrar

Trevor Smith, chief operating officer and registrar with the Saskatchewan Professional Teachers Regulatory Board, said it's inappropriate for a teacher to establish any type of relationship outside of a teacher-student relationship, even if a student has graduated. 

"There's a term for that and sometimes it's called 'grooming,' where a teacher may have a relationship, or interest in a relationship with a student, and that carries on after and becomes more," he said. 

"There isn't really a set time period of time, but it would need to be an extended period of time, between [when] the power imbalance relationship ceased and a personal relationship were able to begin." 

Smith said the removal of a teaching certificate is one of the stiffest penalties a professional committee can impose on an educator. 

The professional conduct committee felt the resolution process was a viable option in this case, as resolutions and agreements are published, he said. But that wouldn't be the case if committee members felt the teacher was trying to sidestep a public hearing by surrendering their certificate beforehand.

"In this particular case, the teacher involved had surrendered his certificate prior to the start of the consent resolution process," he said. "We can't permit an individual to surrender a certificate, in the face of discipline, in order to try and avoid the regulatory process." 

In a statement, the Saskatoon Public School Division confirmed Tumbach was no longer an employee and said the "disciplinary matter has been resolved" by the regulatory board.

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