8 Oct 2008

Christian school Principal's misconduct was physically, emotionally and intellectually abusive

The Vancouver Sun - October 7, 2008

Vice-principal disciplined for abuse of students

Steve Paras failed to report the sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl and punished the victim

by Janet Steffenhagen, Vancouver Sun

SURREY - The vice-principal of a Christian independent school has been disciplined for failing to report the sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl and punishing the victim, who refused to keep quiet.

Although the assault happened in 2002, the B.C. College of Teachers only recently concluded its investigation and found Steve Paras guilty of professional misconduct. It suspended his teaching licence for four months, saying his actions while principal of White Rock Christian Academy were physically, emotionally and intellectually abusive.

Paras resigned from the White Rock school in 2004 and took a job as vice-principal at nearby Regent Christian Academy in Surrey. That school suspended him temporarily this month but said he will return to his post in January after his licence is reinstated.

Neither Regent principal Paul Johnson, nor the chair of the school's board of directors, Marvin Hunt, would say whether Paras is being paid during his time away from the school. "That is a decision of the board - a private decision," said Hunt, who is also a Surrey city councillor.

Johnson said he will have no qualms about welcoming Paras back to his job as vice-principal. "I've known Steve for 23 years as a colleague because his school was just down the road from our school," he said. "We knew that he had an absolutely pristine record prior to this accusation.

"He has been a man of character, in my opinion," Johnson added. "This was a one-off in 2002-03."

Paras, who appeared before the college during a closed-door hearing last May, admitted his misconduct. The college says in its discipline decision that Paras "was employed as a principal when he failed to report his knowledge of a sexual assault of a 13-year-old student by an adult male to either the Ministry of Children and Family Development or the police.

"In addition, he suspended her as a form of discipline and detained and isolated the student in a confined space for an inappropriate period of time during the initial investigation."

In the decision posted on its website, the college says his actions as principal had jeopardized the safety and educational progress of particular students and threatened the integrity of the school.

"His misconduct constituted emotional, physical and intellectual abuse, which would cause a loss of self-esteem in the students and a loss of trust in the school system by the public," the decision says. Although the two schools are religious independent schools, they receive partial funding from the Education Ministry.

In addition to his poor handling of the sexual assault, Paras admitted to:

- Making disrespectful and demeaning comments towards a student during religious studies.

- Making inappropriate comments during a school assembly speech.

- Violating the privacy of students by disclosing personal information to other students and parents.

- Issuing an improper assignment concerning circumcision to students in his Religious Studies class.

The mother of the 13-year-old girl said she is troubled that the man responsible for the sexual assault was never brought to trial but is relieved Paras has finally been punished for his actions.

She said the school tried to hide the facts while punishing her daughter. The girl - now 20 - often wondered why she had bothered to report the sexual assault since nothing happened, said her mother, who The Vancouver Sun is not identifying to protect the identity of her daughter.

"I think it's good to let her know she wasn't the bad one ... she was the victim."

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