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N.S. school board strikes deal with teacher found guilty of sex crime

A Nova Scotia school board has made a deal with a teacher convicted of a sexual offence after years of trying to fire him. He's now resigning and surrendering his teaching certificate in an undisclosed settlement.

The Wednesday evening decision followed multiple judicial rulings in Peter Speight's favour, preventing the board from terminating him and ordering the province to return a teaching certificate it had tried to revoke.

The South Shore Regional School Board won't disclose the terms of the deal, the amount awarded to Mr. Speight or how the $150,000 he would have been owed for two years of back pay was dealt with. Settlement negotiations between the board and a lawyer representing Mr. Speight began Tuesday evening and ended by Wednesday's board meeting. Mr. Speight pleaded guilty in 2009 to "willfully engaging in indecent acts" involving calling women over to his car under the guise of asking for directions, then masturbating in front of them. This happened three times with different women, court found. None of the incidents involved Mr. Speight's job or his students. A provincial court judge granted Mr. Speight a conditional discharge, which means he'll have no criminal record.

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After Mr. Speight pleaded guilty, the school board fired him and the Education Ministry revoked his teacher's licence. He appealed both of those decisions and won. The Education Ministry and school board appealed in turn.

Mr. Speight scored another judicial victory in a Nov. 30 Supreme Court ruling stating the school board can't fire him. Education Minister Ramona Jennex said Wednesday afternoon Mr. Speight was being placed on administrative leave until courts heard the province's appeal to take away his teaching certificate.

What bothered his former employers wasn't so much the fear that he'll reoffend or that he poses a danger to students. They just don't want someone with that kind of history in their schools.

"For us, his behaviour was inappropriate. And the reputation of the board in allowing him to continue led to a decision of the board to discharge him," said board superintendent Nancy Pynch-Worthylake. "The basis on which we made that decision hasn't changed."

Anxiety among parents was palpable at meetings this week, organized at the behest of an arbitrator to help Mr. Speight reintegrate into the school environment. He met with parents of his would-be students Monday evening, and with all other parents on Tuesday. Many of those attending the sessions were vehemently opposed to Mr. Speight's return, with some threatening to send their children to different schools if Mr. Speight returned.

"We had quite a few parents from the school community at the meeting and they were extremely relieved and pleased," Ms. Pynch-Worthylake said.

Mr. Speight's lawyer could not be reached by phone or e-mail Wednesday.

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