Friday, January 23, 2015

It's Over

It took them three years but they finally got me. The University has won in court.

Technically it’s not over yet. There are still a dozen more motions to be argued and appeals to be heard, and another hundred thousand dollars in legal fees to be billed by the University’s lawyers, but in reality it’s over. The University has won.

The death blow fell in the Court of Appeal last week, and it wasn’t even the University’s lawyers who argued the motion. This was a motion for Summary Judgment by the Schoolteachers, the University’s co-defendants on the conspiracy charges, who were represented by separate counsel.

A quick recap of events is in order. The University kicked me out of the Teacher Certification program in January 2012. I had entered the program in September, and had just begun the my first Teaching Block at Gordon Bell High School when I was called into the Principal’s office on the morning of Nov. 21st 2011 and told ordered to leave the building. Principal Arlene Skull told me that a meeting had been set up with my Faculty Advisor and I would be contacted.

That meeting never happened. The next day, the Associate Dean of Education filed a complaint of Non-Academic Misconduct with the Registrar and “transferred my file” to the Registrar’s office. From that day on they refused to discuss my status within the program. The general idea was that I would “get the picture” and just disappear. When I showed up for classes in January, it was a big problem for the University...a problem which the Registrar “solved” a week later by barring me from the campus under the Petty Trespassing Act. Ten days after that, he issued his decision under the Non-Academic Misconduct policy, suspending me from the program for one year. Of course the Education Faculty had no intention of letting me back in when the year was over.

What did I do to get myself kicked out of Gordon Bell? The University never told me. I didn’t find out what the Principal said about me until six months later, after having applied for disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. What did I do to justify getting barred from the University of Winnipeg campus? Naturally, I had demanded to know immediately, but again the University refused to tell me. It would later come out that I had been accused of making a death threat against some unspecified third person, who never personally came forward to identify himself. But that didn’t matter, because as the University would subsequently inform me, “there is no right of appeal under the Petty Trespassing Act.”   

And what did I do to get myself convicted of Non-Academic Misconduct? That’s a question for another day, but it was considered by Provincial Court Judge Anne Krahn, who cited two instances where I used a written assignment as a platform to express my disagreement with things my professors had said in class, saying that this “demonstrated a single minded determinedness to demonstrate that (my) point of view is the superior one.” She went on to say that “Mr. Green becomes agitated, he raises his voice, he uses large dramatic body language and dramatic verbal language. His explanations are lengthy and rambling. He contributed in a way that, even by his own admission, no other student contributed. But this style and approach gave rise, on a reasonable basis to the conclusion that the faculty and students experienced his behavior as disruptive to teaching and learning.”

“Long and rambling” explanations? “Dramatic body language”? I didn’t think you could literally get kicked out of university for any of that. But so-called disruptive behavior and the death threats are a question for another day. Except that if I was really running around making death threats, why would the Judge need to find fault with things that I wrote in essays (no, there were no “threats” in the essays….just me trying to “prove my point of view is the superior one”) in order to come up with reasons for the University to kick me off the campus?

But I digress. Let’s get back to my legal actions against the U of W.  The first thing I learned after I was kicked out of the program is that it’s almost impossible to sue the University. They are protected by the fact that statutes authorize them to create their own disciplinary processes, which the Courts are extremely reluctant to interfere with. I keep appearing before judges (I’m stuck with one right now) who say that the Courts have no jurisdiction in University affairs, but that extreme point of view is unsupported by case law. All the significant authorities speak of “deference” or “reluctance” to intervene except when the University’s conduct offends the principles of natural justice.

Either way, I found I had a very hard time putting together a viable case against my expulsion. Until, that is, I realized that the University didn’t use their statutory powers to expel me…they used the Petty Trespassing Act! And they don’t get a free pass for that…except, that subsequently they put together a Star Chamber which issued an official finding of non-academic misconduct. I’ll be arguing that was too little to late. But as I’ve said, I’m going to lose that argument. And the reason has nothing to do with who’s right or wrong.

Eventually I did sue the University for kicking me out of the program. But that wasn’t the case I argued last week in the Court of Appeal. See, before they kicked me out of the program, they kicked me out of the practicum. And they did it using a procedure which gave me no right of appeal, no hearing, or no chance to tell my side of the story. Yes, normally those are all part of the standard process for dealing with student teachers…and as I said, the Principal of Gordon Bell had already told me that a meeting had been set up to begin that process. 

But that meeting never took place. Because before it did, the University got in touch with the principal and convinced her that instead of going through the Due Process which was set down in the Student Teacher Handbook, the Principal should use here emergency override powers to simply demand that I be removed. After some consideration, the Principal agreed. And that’s how they kicked me out of the practicum. I was never told the reasons or allowed to tell my side of the story.

So I sued the University and the Principal for Conspiracy to Injure. This was a real problem for them, because since they had used a process whereby I wasn’t allowed to defend myself, they were unable to argue that the Courts had no jurisdiction. It was a real problem.

We’ll see how the Court of Appeal solved that problem for them.

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