By Dan Ferguson – Surrey North Leader
Published: March 24, 2009 4:00 PM Updated: March 24, 2009 5:20
PMA Surrey school teacher suspended after a 2002 parking lot fight with a police officer has won the right to sue the school district and his former vice-principal for defamation.
The written decision issued Tuesday by the Court of Appeal overturns a previous ruling that Duncan Stuart couldn’t take the vice-principal and the school district to court because the teachers union contract has a grievance procedure.
A three-judge appeal court panel unanimously ruled that the kind of issues covered by the union agreement don’t include Stuart’s complaint that the vice-principal defamed him during an interview with an RCMP officer.
Stuart pleaded guilty to causing a disturbance and was placed on probation for 18 months following the incident at Princess Margaret Secondary School in June 2002.
A Surrey RCMP officer suffered a concussion during a struggle with Stuart on the school parking lot in front of a crowd of students just getting out of classes.
According to a written medical assessment filed in Surrey Provincial Court, Stuart has bi-polar disorder, also known as manic-depression.
The English teacher was on a medical leave of absence for treatment of severe depression at the time and had switched to a different medication a few months before the incident took place.
When Stuart showed up at the school on June 17, 2002, a verbal confrontation ensued, and a staff member managed to talk him out of the school and into the parking lot of the school at 12870 72 Ave.
When an officer arrived to investigate the disturbance, a physical altercation took place, during which the Mountie’s head was struck on the pavement several times before the officer eventually freed himself and used his Taser to subdue Stuart.
Following the criminal proceedings, the B.C. College of Teachers found Stuart guilty of professional misconduct for the parking lot brawl and guilty of conduct unbecoming a teacher for a separate incident where he contacted a female student in February of 2002.
Stuart challenged the decision and won a BC Supreme Court ruling that set aside the College findings and substituted an indefinite suspension for medical reasons.
Stuart’s defamation case was dismissed in 2007 after a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled the matter should be handled as a union arbitration hearing.
The appeal court set aside that ruling Tuesday and ordered a trial.