Tempers flare at meeting about controversial teacher
Published Tuesday, December 11, 2012 6:51PM AST
Last Updated Wednesday, December 12, 2012 2:46PM AST
Tempers flared at a meeting in New Germany, N.S. last night as parents and teachers discussed the controversial return of a former teacher to a school in the community.
Peter Speight, a former Grade 3 teacher charged with committing a sexual offence, is making plans to go back to teaching at New Germany Elementary School.
He met with parents and South Shore Regional School board officials Tuesday night to discuss his reintegration at the school.
Similar to a meeting held at the school Monday night, the goal of the gathering was to provide information, facilitate discussion, and make parents feel safe, but tempers flared.
“I’m not putting up with this! Listen to my people!” yelled one angry father before he barged into the meeting.
“He’s still a risk, and heaven forbid he wants to come back,” said Jolene Emino Mailman, who has a step-grandchild at the school.
“These are children. Let’s not forget our children. That man just needs to leave. Walk out that door and this will be all over.”
Roughly 125 people attended the meeting, while about 30 more waited outside the school’s gymnasium.
Some parents said they are willing to pull their children out of the school if Speight comes back.
“I have a 10-year-old that goes to this school that he will be teaching,” said one parent at Monday’s meeting. “I’m not going to have her come to this school, so somebody will need to provide transportation, gas money, to take her to another school so that she’s not taught by a sex offender.”
Speight pleaded guilty to willfully committing an indecent act that involved calling a woman over to his car and then masturbating in front of her in the Halifax area in 2008.
He was given a conditional discharge and later fired from his position at New Germany Elementary School in 2009.
However, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruled last month that Speight was unreasonably fired.
Speight is now fighting to reclaim his job.
“I’m the queen of second chances, but I don’t think this is the appropriate place for one,” said parent Jane Morrell.
Parents met with Speight, school board officials, and a restorative justice facilitator at Monday’s meeting.
“No one can change the judge’s decision about whether he returns to the classroom,” said Susan Himmelman of the South Shore Community Justice Society.
While a judge has ruled Speight should get his job back, there is still a chance he won’t be teaching.
The Department of Education revoked his teaching certificate, without which he can’t teach.
An arbitrator has said Speight should get it back, but the Department of Education has appealed that decision and a judge is now reviewing the matter.
“We’ve never experienced anything like this before,” said Himmelman.
“I don’t know how to explain to my kids why he is coming back, why he left, and how they are to treat him,” said a parent.
Some of the issues being discussed are whether a child psychologist should be brought in to talk to students, and whether there could be conditions put on Speight.
Still, it’s not enough for some parents who remain concerned about his possible return to the classroom.
“It’s all up to Mr. Speight. He can walk away from this if he wants, and end this for everybody,” said a parent. “If he really learned anything, that’s what I think he should do.”
CTV News has been unable to reach Speight for comment, and the Nova Scotia Teacher’s Union has not returned calls.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Kayla Hounsell