A three-person panel has determined that a Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district teacher who hugged a Grade 11 student and said words to the effect that he was attracted to her acted in a manner that qualifies as professional misconduct under the Teachers Act.
The decision on findings and determination from a hearing into the actions of Duc-Hung Tran was posted on the Ministry of Education’s website on April 24, as agreed.
The incident occurred on Feb. 5, 2014.
The respondent, Tran, has already been suspended without pay for six weeks by the district.
The decision says Tran “told a female Grade 11 student who was in his class to come with him into a classroom, and then into a storage room to speak privately. He closed the door and then he hugged her and said words to the effect that he was attracted to her. He told her not to tell anyone what he had done.”
Tran had worked with the school district since September 2000, and in that year he taught math, science and marketing 11. He was married and had two school-aged children.
After the incident, the student left the classroom and went to the washroom. She was upset and scared, says the decision, and returned to class, but avoided Tran.
That evening she told her father about the incident, and he reported it to the school administrators.
The school district advised Tran he was being investigated on Feb. 11 of that year, and that he was suspended with pay until further notice.
On Feb. 12, 2014, the district informed the RCMP of the incident, and they investigated, but no charges were approved against Tran.
The district hired an independent consultant to conduct and investigation.
On April 16, 2014, Tran submitted a medical certificate that stated he required medical leave for major depressive disorder.
On Nov. 5, 2014, the board of trustees for the school district decided to continue Tran’s suspension, but without pay while allowing him access to medical leave benefits.
OnFeb. 25, 2015, the school district advised Tran he would be suspended without pay for six weeks upon his return from medical leave.
He was also transferred to another school not attended by the student or her family, made to complete the Professional Boundaries Course by the Teacher Regulation Branch, be monitored by school administration, and continue treatment for his medical condition, says the decision.
On June 8, 2015, he returned to the district as a teacher on call, and to full-time teacher in January 2016.
“The panel further agrees that the act of hugging is not ‘inherently sexual or romantic.’ However coupled with the representation that the respondent made to the student that he was attracted to her and the circumstances of advising her of such in a closed storeroom away from the public view, hugging in this case, manifestly crossed the line,” says the reason for penalty.
The panel also directed asked that submissions regarding penalty and costs may be made in writing.