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CBE knew about predatory teacher who died by suicide after sex charges laid, $40 million lawsuit claims

·6 min read
Michael Gregory was a teacher at a Calgary junior high school from 1986 to 2006. Five days after he was charged with sexual offences against students, Gregory killed himself. Now, several former students are suing Gregory's estate and the CBE.  (John Ware Junior High - image credit)
Michael Gregory was a teacher at a Calgary junior high school from 1986 to 2006. Five days after he was charged with sexual offences against students, Gregory killed himself. Now, several former students are suing Gregory's estate and the CBE. (John Ware Junior High - image credit)

The Calgary Board of Education was aware girls at a local junior high were being sexually abused by a teacher, yet the staff who knew did nothing to stop Michael Gregory's predatory behaviour, a $40 million lawsuit claims.

Earlier this year, Michael Gregory died by suicide five days after he was criminally charged with with 17 counts of sexual assault and sexual exploitation involving six girls who had been students at John Ware Junior High.

Gregory was employed at the southwest school from 1986 to 2006.

A proposed class action lawsuit filed Wednesday at the Calgary courthouse by lawyers Jonathan Denis and Mathew Farrell names the CBE and Michael Gregory's estate as defendants and seeks damages for the sexual and emotional abuse suffered by victims.

Statements of defence have not been filed and none of the allegations have been proven in court.

New victims identified

Calgary police say even after Gregory's death, their investigation continued and 10 new victims and 35 new witnesses came forward following the media attention in February.

"These victims called CPS from coast to coast to coast and the United States having heard of the charges against Gregory," said a CPS spokesperson.

"This investigation remains open as detectives are examining other investigative directions."

Three former students from John Ware are the named plaintiffs in the lawsuit with the statement of claim offering new details on the allegations faced by Gregory.

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'Predatory behaviour'

The lawsuit suggests several staff members, including a vice principal, knew Gregory had been sexually inappropriate with female students yet failed to investigate complaints, supervise or discipline Gregory.

Two named plaintiffs were girls who were victims of grooming by Gregory in Grades 7 to 9. Eventually he'd manipulated the teens into physical sexual relationships, according to the statement.

One of the named plaintiffs is a man, who, as a teen, says he witnessed inappropriate conduct and reported it twice to the school's guidance counsellor with no further action being taken.

During his time at the junior high, Gregory taught math, science and outdoor education.

Gregory's "predatory behaviour" included bringing students to his home and giving them gifts of money, concert tickets, jewelry, mixed tapes, alcohol and drugs.

Kelly Schneider's story

In 1989, when Kelly Schneider was 14, Gregory initiated a sexual relationship with her.

It began slowly, according to the lawsuit, with Gregory paying extra attention to her. Eventually, his attention became physical.

One day, according to the document, Gregory walked into class and threw a bikini top at her in front of the class and announced that she needed to pick up after herself the next time she was at his house.

Gregory and another teacher once picked Schneider up by the arms and threw her into the teachers' shower with her clothes on while she was wearing a white shirt, according to the claim.

'Love, Mike'

The lawsuit alleges that during a hike, Gregory once demanded Schneider take her shirt off in front of him and others, who were all boys.

Eventually, Gregory was taking Schneider out for lunches and dinners, including on school time. It was on these outings that sexual activity would take place between the two, according to the lawsuit.

During Schneider's Grade 9 year, Gregory went to her home and told her parents that he was concerned she was sexually active, bringing male students home at lunchtime.

When her parents refused to tell her what Gregory had said during their private conversation, Schneider gathered all of the gifts her teacher had given her, including a gold necklace, a book of poetry and a poster of a ballet dancer with the signature "love, Mike," and showed her parents.

Parents report Gregory to school

The parents were so concerned about the gifts and Gregory's comments, they marched to the school the next day and demanded to see the principal.

Instead, they met with the assistant principal, the same man who had helped throw Schneider in the shower. He was also friends with Gregory, according to the claim.

"Your daughter has quite an imagination," the assistant principal told them. He moved Schneider to another homeroom class.

When her parents asked if Schneider wanted to report the relationship to police, she declined, citing concerns she wouldn't be believed again.

After her transfer, rumours circulated about Schneider and Gregory's relationship. The situation became unbearable; Schneider lost all her friends and ended up transferring schools.

Eryn MacKenzie's story

Named plaintiff Eryn MacKenzie's story has some of the same markings of a relationship where Gregory groomed and manipulated her, beginning around 1999 when she was 14.

At the time, MacKenzie struggled with self-harm and an eating disorder.

"[Gregory] feigned concern to get closer to her," according to the lawsuit.

One female teacher told MacKenzie to "be careful" of Gregory, but she didn't understand the warning at the time, states the claim.

In the summer between Grade 8 and 9, Gregory invited MacKenzie on a canoe trip along with several other John Ware students who were in the teacher's outdoor education program.

Unsanctioned overnight trips

It wasn't a school-sanctioned trip, but because of Gregory's teaching position, parents allowed their children to go on overnight trips.

During the trip, the statement of claim alleges Gregory suggested MacKenzie flash her breasts to nearby golfers as they canoed past a golf course.

When she refused, he began to call her ATNA, meaning 'all talk, no action.'

On a second canoe trip, MacKenzie acquiesced when she was told to bare her breasts to the golfers, according to the claim, which also suggests Gregory shared a tent with a 15-year-old girl on the same excursion.

By the time MacKenzie was in Grade 9, the lawsuit alleges Gregory had groomed her and was having regular physical sexual contact with her.

When she developed age-appropriate relationships with boys in her school, the lawsuit claims Gregory would "sabotage" them.

Gregory stopped teaching in '06

By Grade 10, MacKenzie had moved schools but still had sexual contact with her former teacher.

At that time, MacKenzie's friend was also being groomed by Gregory, the lawsuit alleges, and the two girls talked about their experiences together.

When Gregory found out, he told MacKenzie that if word got out, he would have to kill himself. He texted her a photo of a firearm, according to the court document.

Then, he suggested MacKenzie should be the one to take her own life.

"That night she attempted suicide by overdose but got scared and made herself throw up," reads the document.

When MacKenzie was in university, she was contacted by an investigator with the Alberta Teachers Association who wanted to speak with her about Gregory's conduct. MacKenzie did not provide a statement.

Ultimately, because of that investigation, Gregory's license was suspended and he stopped teaching in 2006.

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