Soroptimists want Chilliwack teacher who touched colleague’s buttocks to be fired

Service group says transfer to another school for repeat offender is ‘extremely inappropriate’

The local branch of Soroptimist International has expressed its disgust that a Chilliwack teacher repeatedly guilty of sexual misconduct was not fired, but instead moved from school to school.

Three times in 2017, teacher Lancer Kevin Price touched a colleague’s buttocks, something he admitted to in a resolution agreement with the Teacher Regulation Branch (TRB) of the Ministry of Education.

Price was given a five-day retroactive suspension, and was moved to another school. In 2009, Price was also handed a letter of discipline for sexually harassing two teaching colleagues.

• READ MORE: Chilliwack teacher suspended 5 days for touching colleague’s buttocks

Lance Price from the Chilliwack secondary school web page list of teachers.

Price worked as a school counsellor at Vedder Elementary, he also worked as a teacher at Rosedale Traditional Community School, and is is currently listed as a teacher on the Chilliwack Secondary School’s website.

In a letter dated Nov. 27 sent to School District 33 board chair Dan Coulter, the Soroptimist International of Chilliwack request the case be reconsidered, and the “totally inadequate consequences” be revisited.

“Not only does this not support the women that teach in School District 33 but supporting a man who is setting the worst possible example to the boys and girls attending school in this district,” the unsigned letter reads.

“We feel that his 10-day suspension and a transfer to another school is … extremely inappropriate given the seriousness of his actions. We believe that he should be dismissed from all teaching positions in the community immediately.”

Soroptimist International is a global volunteer organization that works to improve the lives of girls and women via programs with the aim of social and economic empowerment.

Coulter responded, saying in part that due to a legal obligation to privacy of employees, the board cannot comment on specific details of any complaints, past or present.

“The Chilliwack School District is committed to maintaining a safe and respectful learning and work environment for our students and staff,” Coulter wrote. “We take complaints of sexual harassment and unprofessional conduct very seriously. We have policies and procedures to encourage reporting of issues and to thoroughly, fairly and expeditiously assess respond and act on complaints.”

Coulter explained the decision to enter into a resolution with Price came from the TRB, and the board remains “confident in the safety of students and staff will continue to comply with TRB decisions.”

The union that represents local teachers said the discipline of teachers is the responsibility of the school board and the TRB.

“Both of these bodies have reviewed the relevant information and have made discipline decisions,” Chilliwack Teachers’ Association president Ed Klettke said in a statement. “The role of the union is to ensure that due process is followed. Our collective agreement contains a clause that lays out the processes for discipline from the school board. If the union believes that due process was not followed at the board level, then we have the right to file a formal grievance…. The union does not provide any judgement on discipline decisions.”

Klettke added that the CTA represents and supports all union members, and all complaints are dealt with through the collective agreement and district policy on respectful workplaces.

As for the Soroptimists, the local branch says the issue has “profound implications for women, girls and boys.”

“As Soroptimists we believe in standing up in our community to uphold the highest ethical standards and human rights to help improve the lives of women and girls. The women he has sexually harassed have the right to protection in the workplace so by transferring him to another school more women are put in jeopardy. Our society holds teachers to the highest standards because of the influence they have on the lives of our children. The message being sent is that it’s OK and you can do whatever you want with little or no consequences.”

Since the story first came out about Price’s conduct, a parent of a Vedder elementary student recounted an incident with Price when he was a school counsellor at that school in 2013. The mother said Price was “inappropriate, aggressive, belittling, and rude” during a meeting discussing her daughter being bullied at the school.

Her concern was that if Price is OK with physically touching colleagues, what about students. She sent an email to acting superintendent Rohan Arul-pragasam who responded on Nov. 27 that “we have not received or been advised of any related complaints or suspected misconduct involving students.”

• READ MORE: #MeToo at work: How reporting sexual harassment works – and how it doesn’t


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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