Vancouver Province

Thursday 11 May 2000

Teacher's sex life probed

The Province
Suzanne Fournier and John Colebourn, Staff Reporters The Province

BCTV / Teacher B.J. Johnson, as she appears in the G.P. Vanier yearbook.

GIFFIN: Investigating

NORCOTT: 'Rumour mill'

COURTENAY -- Comox Valley school officials and police won't discuss an "investigation into inappropriate conduct" by a female teacher with a male student at G.P. Vanier senior high school.

But students say the alleged affair between the popular, youthful-looking 27-year-old teacher and the student was "well-known" and that the two were seen together "all over town" in her white sports car, snowboarding, in restaurants and in stores.

The student graduated last year.

Several students also say they don't know why it took so long for the school and police to investigate a relationship that most say they took for granted, even if they resented it.

But Comox Valley school superintendent Clyde Woolman insisted: "This investigation only occurred as a result of information we received late last week."

And Vanier principal Dave Norcott, whose staff ordered reporters off school property yesterday, also insisted that "information only came to my attention last week and I notified the school district, which acted very quickly. When anything like this happens the rumour mill becomes very active and rumour mills are purely speculation."

Teacher B.J. Johnson, whose first name is Billie Jo but is known as B.J., was in school last week, students say.

But Woolman would say only that "the teacher is not now at school."

Several students interviewed outside the school said Johnson ran a leadership program, which involved extracurricular activities with students and that she behaved "more like a friend than teacher."

"She dressed like a high-school student and she'd even swap clothes with girls," said Grade 12 student Jennifer Mudge, 18. "I thought it was inappropriate and I don't know why the school didn't do something to stop it last year. A lot of students and parents didn't really like it."

Said Curtis Cando, an 18-year-old Vanier student: "He was always driving her car."

Grade 12 student Ashley Birley, 17, said she was in Johnson's French class last year with the teen.

"She'd favour him," she said. "It was obvious she was seeing him."

Student Joe Costello, 17, said the student bragged about the relationship. "He couldn't keep his mouth shut."

Agreed another student, who asked not to be named: "He went deep into details. It was lust."

Other students say the investigation was sparked only after the teen was dumped and told his father, a police officer, who complained last week to the school and RCMP.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Paul Giffin insisted "we aren't investigating anything more serious than inappropriate conduct; we just don't want to prejudice our investigation by saying more."

One school trustee, who didn't want to be named, said the investigation is "no doubt a result of heightened sensitivity to issues around exploitation by female teachers of male students."

"The fact that (the student's) father is a police officer may have been a factor as well."

Comox Valley school board chair Karen Lawrenson would say only that "an investigation is under way and when it is concluded, we will hold a press conference and air all the details."