Double jeopardy leads to reinstatement of B.C. teacher suspended and fired for kissing student

·3 min read

A teacher who was fired for hugging a former student and kissing her on the neck has been reinstated after the Kamloops Thompson Teachers' Association challenged his dismissal and had the ruling overturned.

On Tuesday, however, Kamloops-Thompson School District superintendent Terry Sullivan told CBC News it will appeal.

"The board does not agree with the arbitrator's decision and they've determined they're going to appeal the decision to the Labour Relations Board."

At issue is an incident between middle-school teacher Brett Edward Wasylik and a former student on Nov. 12, 2016.

According to a 2019 consent resolution agreement published by the B.C. Ministry of Education, Wasylik behaved inappropriately with his former student at a Kamloops restaurant during an end-of-season celebration dinner with a sports team.

He noticed a student he had taught in Grade 8 and Grade 9 was working there as a hostess.

The middle-school teacher was first licensed to teach in B.C. in 2001 and the school district confirms the girl was 17 at the time of the incident and had recently graduated.

The incident

At one point, Wasylik approached the former student and spoke to her for five minutes, commenting on her appearance, saying she was looking "f--king hot."

He showed her photos of himself, including a shirtless one, and later walked her to her car after her shift, hugging her and kissing her neck.

In November 2016, Wasylik was suspended for three days without pay by the school district and he was required to complete a course on reinforcing respectful professional boundaries after denying the allegations.

Less than one month after the incident, the school district says it submitted an investigation report to the teacher regulation branch.

The subsequent consent resolution agreement revealed that Wasylik was dishonest in his denial to the school district. After this was revealed, he was fired in August 2019.

Appealing the dismissal

The Kamloops Thompson Teachers' Association stepped in and grieved his dismissal and won based on the argument he was let go after already being punished for the same incident when he was suspended without pay for three days.

The school district's Sullivan says officials are not satisfied with the decision because the teacher initially denied wrongdoing.

"One of the major reasons that they felt so strongly was because the original termination was for dishonesty in relation to the inappropriate sexual misconduct," Sullivan said.

Arbitrator Ken Saunders said the argument of double jeopardy comes into play in reinstating Wasylik. That means the employer — the school district — could not punish him twice for the same case with both a suspension and then dismissal.

"It would be contrary to ... the finality of settlements to permit the employer to discipline the grievor in 2019 for substantially the same conduct [from 2016]."

"I conclude the employer has not established just cause for discipline. The dismissal fails at the first stage of the test for just cause ... and there is no basis to substitute another penalty. The grievor must be reinstated," Saunders said in the decision.

Sullivan said there's no word on when the labour board will hear the appeal, but he said Wasylik is not currently teaching in the district.

"We have teaching standards in British Columbia and they apply to teachers whether they're on the job or off the job," Sullivan said.