Principal loses teaching certificate after keeping school like a ‘petting zoo,’ having sexual encounter in a classroom

Share Button

A former Calgary principal who filled his elementary school with chickens, guinea pigs, turkeys, ducks, rabbits, fish and other animals has lost his Alberta teaching certificate and membership in the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA).

Edmonton Journal

Updated: October 26, 2018
Janet French

A former Calgary principal who filled his elementary school with chickens, guinea pigs, turkeys, ducks, rabbits, fish and other animals has lost his Alberta teaching certificate and membership in the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA).

At a hearing last year, staff who worked with the Calgary Board of Education at West Dover Elementary School said there were filthy cages and tanks in hallways and classrooms, feces on the school walls and floors and a stench that “hit you as soon as you entered the school,” according to a written decision released last week by the teachers’ association.

An ATA conduct committee found Mark Patrick Buckley, now of Peterborough, Ont., guilty of four counts of professional misconduct for failing to treat students and staff with dignity and respect and bringing dishonour to the teaching profession for his actions between 2008 and 2012.

“His actions demonstrated a complete disregard for the health and safety of the staff, the students and parents of West Dover School,” the conduct committee concluded on Nov. 24, 2017.

At an Edmonton hearing earlier that month, witnesses testified about the filthy conditions in the school, substandard care for the animals, and how Buckley dismissed their concerns about student and staff allergies triggered by the animals.

Buckley did not attend the hearing, and could not be reached for comment on Wednesday or Thursday.

Buckley’s former supervisors also testified he coded eight students as having severe disabilities without assessing the students or informing their parents. By doing this, he secured $80,000 more for his school that should have gone to help other students with diagnosed disabilities, the committee said.

A forensic psychologist also testified Buckley told him he had brought another adult into the school’s music room to have a sexual encounter. The school district had contracted the doctor to do a psychiatric evaluation on Buckley when the principal made the admission, unprompted, he said.

Due to privacy concerns, the association has substantially delayed publicly releasing many written decisions by its disciplinary committees.

In its decision, the conduct committee said it found all nine hearing witnesses to be credible.

“By fraudulently accessing funds meant to provide programming for special education students, Buckley failed to maintain the honour and dignity of the profession,” the committee wrote.

They found he also failed to consider the health impacts of housing animals in unsafe and dirty enclosures. Allergic staff members said they were taking antihistamines daily because no corner of the school was free from dander. One child was hospitalized more than once with a reaction.

When staff members brought these concerns to Buckley’s attention, he dismissed them, which the committee said created a hostile working environment and led to physical and mental health problems.

Staff also testified they were given animals for their classrooms without any training, and felt responsible when some of the animals died. They were upset they had to tell their young students the animals had died.

It took a special team at least two weeks to clean the school after Buckley went on sick leave in 2012, the report said.

“Buckley clearly betrayed the fundamental trust that society places on teachers and brought dishonour and disrepute to the profession,” the committee wrote. “The public must be assured that teachers who do not uphold the values outlined in the code of professional conduct will not go unpunished.”

Buckley was an association member from Sept. 1, 1999 to Aug. 31, 2012, the report said.

The Calgary Board of Education said Thursday it could not respond to questions before publication deadline.

[email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *