The principal of a Prince Albert Christian school that is one of three schools placed under a soon to be appointed administrator for the 2022-2023 school year will not be working in the school in the next school year.
In an announcement made late Thursday afternoon, the Ministry of Education explained that the teacher's regulatory board had taken action.
“Immediately after the names in the statement of claim were received, the Ministry of Education asked the SPTRB to investigate the complaints regarding the professional teachers who have been named in a lawsuit by former students of Legacy Christian Academy,” the statement reads. “We understand the SPTRB has taken action and that these teachers will not be in the schools for the 2022-23 school year. No one named in the lawsuit will be working in schools for the 2022-23 school year.”
Regent Academy's principal, Duff Friesen, is a former principal and teacher of Legacy Christian Academy. Regent Academy received more than $170,000 in government funding in the 2020-21 fiscal year.
The Daily Herald reached out to Regent Academy for comment after the announcement of the sanctions but did not hear back by press time.
Grace Christian School in Saskatoon is the third school currently employing someone who was named in the recent lawsuit by former students of Legacy Christian Academy in Saskatoon. Education Minister Dustin Duncan has called the allegations troubling, and Thursday’s statement reiterated that view.
“This is why the Ministry of Education is working quickly to install an administrator into the three schools that currently have someone on staff who were named in the recent lawsuit,” Thursday’s announcement reads. “Each administrator’s priorities will include reviewing school staff and making personnel decisions to ensure student safety. Once administrators are in place they will schedule a meeting with any students or former students who are interested in speaking with them about the allegations.”
The province announced amendments to The Registered Independent Schools Regulations on Aug. 12 designed to increase the accountability of Qualified Independent Schools. The move allows the government to appoint a supervisor to oversee the education of students at Regent Academy in Prince Albert along with Legacy Christian Academy and Grace Christian School, both located in Saskatoon.
“The Saskatchewan Professional Teachers Regulatory Board (SPTRB) receives complaints from students, parents and the general public about teacher conduct and competency, and we encourage anyone who has concerns about a teacher to contact the SPTRB,” the Ministry said. “If someone has an allegation against staff that is criminal in nature we urge them to immediately contact the local police.”
In addition to the provincial administrator, Regent Academy will also be subject to 10 unannounced inspections this coming school year.
The administrator has not yet been announced by Minister of Education Dustin Duncan.
The Saskatchewan Advocate for Children and Youth, Dr. Lisa Broda said she was also deeply concerned about the recent allegations of historical abuse of children at Legacy Christian Academy (formerly Christian Centre Academy).
Broda released a statement on Friday saying there is a high bar of accountability for institutions that receive public funding and hold significant authority over children.
“The magnitude of the allegations of abuse that have surfaced over the past few weeks is very troubling,” Broda’s statement reads. “Though these matters will be worked out through the police investigation and court processes, it is critical to ensure that while the investigation is ongoing.”
The Advocate’s office has been monitoring this situation since these allegations were made and has been in communication with officials from the Ministry of Education to request preliminary information. Broda said in her statement that she will consider her next steps carefully.
“While the Official Opposition Leader has publicly requested an investigation, we will be making this determination independent of that request,” her statement reads. “With the upcoming school year approaching, my immediate concern is to ensure that, in the current context, young people are safe and protected in all three independent schools impacted.”
Broda wrote that all young people have the right to be protected from harm and all schools should be a place where children and youth can safely learn and develop.
“When those institutions receive public funding and/or provide a public service, the need for transparency and oversight is paramount,” her statement reads.
Although the legal issues raised in the Plaintiff’s statement of claim will be processed through the justice system, the Ministry of Education is also expected to exercise due diligence in its responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of the children and youth receiving services pursuant to The Education Act and its Regulations.
Article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states it is the right of children and youth for the institutions responsible for their care to "conform with standards established by competent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety, health [...] and suitability of their staff". Broda wrote that this is a critical area she will consider in her assessment of this situation.
She added that while the increased oversight of independent schools established by recent amendments to The Registered Independent Schools Regulations is a step in the right direction, it remains to be seen whether these changes will be sufficient to ensure the rights of children and youth in all schools in Saskatchewan are respected, protected, and fulfilled.
“It is under my authority and mandate to ensure services to children are in accordance with the legislation, regulations, and policy through which these services are provided and to ensure the rights of young people are protected,” her statement reads. “My office will be assessing all information provided to me and, again, will methodically consider the next steps in our review.”
Any child or youth can call our office confidentially if they have concerns with public services inclusive of education at 1-800-322-7221.
Broda’s wrote in her statement that her office would not comment further at this time.
Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald