Duc-Hung Tran started in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district in 2000. (THE NEWS/files)

Teacher who hugged student keeps teaching certificate

Duc-Hung Tran was working in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district at time

A teacher who hugged a student in a school storage room and told her that he was attracted to her will not have his teaching certificate taken away from him.

The decision was posted to the Ministry of Education website on Feb. 19 after a disciplinary hearing panel looked into the actions of Duc-Hung Tran, a secondary school teacher in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district at the time of the incident.

On April 24, 2018, the three-person panel determined that Tran’s actions on Feb. 5, 2014 amounted to professional misconduct under the Teacher’s Act.

A citation issued against Tran on Sept. 12, 2017 said that the teacher “told a female Grade 11 student who was in his class to come with him into a classroom, and then into a storage room to speak privately. He closed the door and then he hugged her and said words to the effect that he was attracted to her. He told her not to tell anyone what he had done.”

The Feb. 19 decision outlined how Tran, a day after the incident, asked the school district if he could take a personal leave, saying how he felt he was not able to “give it all to the kids” and with “declining enrollment, he may help to save a colleague.” He did not mention his interaction with the student.

The ministry decision said that Tran was suspended with pay on Feb. 5, 2014, and on Nov. 5, 2014, school board trustees decided to continue his suspension, but without pay, allowing him to access medical leave benefits.

It also said that an independent investigator hired by the district gave Tran a further suspension without pay for six weeks to start when Tran returned from medical leave.

He served that suspension from April 27 to June 5, 2015, after which he returned to teach in the district as a teacher-on-call. He was medically approved to return to work in September 2015 at a 90 per cent basis and returned to full-time teaching in January 2016.

Following the independent investigation, Tran was transferred to another school not attended by the student in question, he had to complete a Professional Boundaries course, as well as continue treatment for “Major Depressive Disorder,” including counselling and was to be monitored by administrators in the school where he taught.

Submissions regarding penalty, publication and costs were made in writing to the panel by Jan. 2, 2019.

The commissioner, represented by Maureen Boyd, with the Ministry of Justice, submitted that the appropriate consequence for the teacher would be the cancellation of his certificate of qualification based on fact that his conduct was a significant boundary violation of a sexual nature, that is was intentional and very serious in nature.

The commissioner was also under the opinion that the public interest required a strong disciplinary response to protect the safety of students through a general deterrent and that the evidence showed that a lesser disciplinary response would not effectively serve the goal of the specific deterrence.

The panel, in its decision, came to the conclusion that it is unlikely that Tran will re-offend.

Members based their decision on the fact that Tran had no history of previous misconduct, had already been disciplined and faced personal shame. Tran has acknowledged his mistake and is remorseful.

The commissioner also cited that Tran has participated and continues to do son counselling, and fulfilled other conditions imposed by the school district.

The commissioner said that although the incident was, “serious and concerning,” it was a single occurrence and when Tran recognized his inappropriate behaviour, he immediately removed himself from the situation by taking personal leave.

Also, Tran has been teaching for three years now on a full-time basis and has had no further issues.

“As such, we do not believe that cancellation of his certificate is necessary for the protection of the public or as a specific or general deterrence. Given he has already served a significant suspension, we find that a further suspension would serve no purpose, and would likely be disruptive to his current students,” read the panel’s decision.

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