A North Vancouver elementary school principal has been reprimanded for failing to act after several school staff told him they’d seen a male education assistant behaving in an inappropriate manner with a 12-year-old autistic boy, including kissing him on the lips.
The information is contained in a decision published by the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation at the end of December 2015.
According to information in the decision, in the fall of 2014, John William Reid was the principal of a North Vancouver elementary school where an education assistant worked closely with the non-verbal autistic boy.
Between September and November, another staff member saw the education assistant kissing and holding the boy in an inappropriate manner and reported that to Reid.
Three other school employees witnessed similar behaviour.
Two of them saw the education assistant kissing the student on the lips and a third saw him giving the student an “Eskimo kiss.” All three reported what they’d seen to Reid.
In November, one of those staff members became so concerned about what she’d witnessed, she reported it to the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
Subsequent investigation revealed Reid hadn’t reported concerns about the education assistant’s behaviour to anyone at the school district, Ministry of Children and Families or the police or conducted any formal investigation into the allegations. Instead, Reid had a “brief fireside chat” with the employee.
When school district officials found out about the allegations, the education assistant who had been seen kissing the boy was immediately suspended by schools superintendent John Lewis while the school district conducted an investigation. The RCMP also investigated, said Lewis in an interview, but did not recommend any charges. The education assistant subsequently resigned from the school district.
Unlike teachers, education assistants are not regulated by an outside professional body where questionable behaviour is flagged and reported. Employees are supposed to own up to past misconduct as part of the hiring process, said Lewis, but he acknowledged it is up to school districts to practice due diligence in checking out prospective employees.
In March of 2015, the school district issued Reid a letter of discipline and suspended him without pay from March 9 to 13, 2015 – during spring break, when schools are closed.
In the agreement with the teacher regulation branch, Reid acknowledged his action constituted professional misconduct and agreed to take a Justice Institute of B.C. course on reinforcing respectful professional boundaries.
Reid was principal at Queen Mary elementary at the time of the incident.