Community reacts to resignation of controversial teacher
Published Thursday, December 13, 2012 7:15PM AST
Parents and staff are reacting to the news that a controversial teacher will not be returning to New Germany Elementary School.
Peter Speight, a former Grade 3 teacher at the school, was fighting to get his job back after being convicted of committing an indecent act.
However, Speight has instead accepted a settlement and agreed to resign after his plan to return to the school sparked a public outcry.
As a result, Speight will no longer be allowed to work as a teacher anywhere in Nova Scotia.
“Complete relief. It was a rough three days of meetings,” says Jennifer Hayward, president of the New Germany Elementary Home and School Association.
“I don’t believe the school and community should have ever been put through that process.”
Members of the community have expressed their outrage since they learned Speight was fighting to come back to the school.
He was charged with committing an indecent act in 2009.
The incident involved him calling a woman over to his car and then masturbating in front of her in the Halifax area in 2008.
He pleaded guilty to the charge in the spring of 2009 and was fired by the school board a month later.
However, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruled last month that Speight was unreasonably fired.
Meetings were held this week in an attempt to provide information, facilitate discussion, and make parents feel safe about Speight’s return, but emotions ran high and tempers flared.
Last night at another packed meeting Speight surprised parents by accepting an undisclosed settlement package - part of which includes $150,000 in back pay - and resigned.
“I’m completely surprised,” said parent Jesse Dexter after last night’s meeting. “This is great news. It is what really had to happen.”
The unexpected decision was a hot topic in town Thursday, but it’s not a clear-cut issue for everyone.
“My one brother had him as a teacher, and he was a great teacher,” says one young mother of two.
Education Minister Ramona Jennex has made it clear that Speight will not be working anywhere in the province as a teacher ever again, but there is a possibility he could go somewhere else.
“He might apply at another jurisdiction, but his history would follow anytime he filed for a licensing in another province,” she says.
Hayward’s two children would have been in Speight’s class. She says she was prepared to pull them out of the school, but is glad she won’t have to do that anymore.
“This was a black and white issue since the beginning,” she says. “It should never have gone this far.”
While Hayward says she is proud of the community for standing up for the children, she says it will take a long time for New Germany to heal.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Felicia Yap