Vancouver Province

Sunday 31 October 1999

Teacher suspended in student sex probe

Parents say they're disgusted as police investigate allegations

Clare Ogilvie, Staff Reporter and Nancy Moote, Special to the Province The Province

Police are investigating a female high-school teacher in Sechelt for allegedly having sexual relations with a male student.

The teacher, Heather Ingram, has been suspended.

The Sunshine Coast school board is to meet Tuesday to review the suspension.

Trustees want to hear what the science, math, and business teacher at Chatelech secondary has to say about the allegations of a 10-month affair this year and last with a 17-year-old student. Ingram is in her early 30s and has been a teacher in the district for four years.

School superintendent Clifford Smith said the allegations could involve more than one student, but Cpl. Danny Willis of the Sechelt RCMP said the police have found only one alleged victim so far.

The investigation is of an alleged offence "involving sexual relations between a person in authority and a young person [aged 14 to 18]," said Willis.

Smith said he suspended Ingram last Tuesday because he feared her presence at school would adversely affect students.

Said assistant school superintendent Stewart Hercus: "While there is an ongoing investigation with police, we really can't say too much because it could interfere with their investigation.

"We have over 300 teachers and I guess every now and again something like this may happen, but it is good that we find out about it and take action.

"A lot of really good teachers are very saddened by this, I'm sure."

Parents are angry and disgusted at what they called a flagrant abuse of trust.

"I think it [the allegation] is disgusting," said the parent of a Grade 10 student.

"I'm not saying I'm opposed to an age difference in relationships, but when that person is . . . a teacher they have a moral obligation to the students and their position."

Ingram's suspension was no surprise to many students.

"Rumours had been going 'round for a long time this school year, and last year a little bit too," said a Grade 10 student.

"What I have heard of her is that she is trying to be the students' friend more than teach them."

In one incident described by a student and her mother, Ingram showed off her stomach tattoo to her class.

Ingram, contacted at her Gibsons home yesterday, refused to comment.