09/03/2013 02:51 EDT | Updated 11/03/2013 05:12 EST

Matthew Lettington, Nanaimo Teacher, Suspended Over Inappropriate Student Contact

School District 68

VANCOUVER - Inappropriate relationships with students, including camping with five female students without telling their parents, resulted in a 30-day suspension for a Nanaimo, B.C., teacher.

In an agreed statement of facts, Matthew Lettington, who teaches at Wellington Secondary, admitted he went to movies with students, had them over to his house and made inappropriate comments through social media, including saying "thanks babe" to one student on Facebook.

Lettington's suspension started Tuesday, the same day many students across B.C. headed back to school.

The former commissioner for teacher regulation Elena Miller oversaw the resolution agreement with Lettington that concluded this August. Miller temporarily filled the commissioner post currently held by Bruce Preston.

The agreement describes misconduct by Lettington between 2006 and 2008, including the camping trip he took with the students in July 2007, before the young women began their Grade 12 year.

"Although Lettington had his own tent for sleeping, he did not first obtain the consent of the parents nor did he inform the school administration prior to the camping trip," Miller said in the agreement.

"When one of the student's mother and sister arrived unexpectedly at the campsite ... Lettington did not take steps the clarify the situation."

Miller said Lettington also failed to inform the school or district that he had been directed by a parent of one of those five students not to have contact with the daughter.

Lettington was teaching visual arts at the time, and supervised an extracurricular photography club.

Miller also detailed "numerous inappropriate postings" by Lettington on his Facebook page and on wall posts by students.

In May 2008, for example, Lettington said his favourite part of a drawing posted on a student's wall was an unnamed person "massaging her groin."

Later that month, Lettington wrote "thighs the limit" in response to a student who posted a picture of herself pulling on pants, which were below her thighs.

Miller said Lettington also made a Grade 11 student uncomfortable because of what he wrote in her yearbook.

The Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District suspended Lettington for 20 days in 2009, after which he completed a six-hour workshop on professional boundaries.

Miller said the counsellor of the workshop reported Lettington was surprised his behaviour came across as “grooming,” or sexually related.

But the counsellor said Lettington eventually understood why his actions were inappropriate, and agreed to "follow all procedures and guidelines and avoid making decisions without input from his administrator and other school personnel."

Consequently, commissioner Miller proposed a consent resolution agreement, which concluded a few weeks ago.

Lettington wouldn't comment when reached by phone, but he admitted to misconduct in the document and said he would not make any statement which "contradicts, disputes or calls into question" the agreement.

The district's director of communications, Donna Reimer, said Lettington still teaches at Wellington Secondary, but could not confirm which classes. Reimer said the agreement should resolve the issue, and no further steps are being taken against Lettington.

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