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Victoria teacher suspended for professional misconduct

The matter concerns high school teacher Robert Ammon and his actions in the summer of 2013.
(Photo: Pixabay)

A Greater Victoria teacher has been cited for professional misconduct after saying ‘I love you’ to a male student and showering the teen with gifts totalling hundreds of dollars.

In a decision reached through the B.C. Teacher Regulation Branch earlier this month, high school educator Robert Darwin Ammon was found to have operated outside the reasonable boundaries in a teacher-student relationship in 2013 and has had his teaching certification suspended for a period of five months, to occur during the academic school year.

While it was determined that Ammon’s misconduct was not of a sexual nature, a panel decided the appropriateness of the relationship — within the context of the allegations — were of an inappropriate relationship of a non-sexual nature.

The panel went on to point out in its decision that Ammon’s relationship with the student was “serious enough to create a serious risk of emotional harm to a vulnerable student, at an especially difficult time in his life”.

In an agreed statement of facts, Ammon stated that he “mentored” one of his math students outside of school hours during the spring and summer of 2013, the extent of which was not disclosed or kept secret to the boy’s adoptive parents.

The original citation issued in July 2015, states Ammon provided fitness coaching to the Grade 10 student outside of school hours, and gave him gifts totalling more than $300 including shoes, jewelry, a gift certificate and books with religious content. In addition to driving the student around in his personal vehicle and spending time alone with him, the citation goes on to say that Ammon did not advise the student’s parents of the nature and extent of their relationship.

The parents became aware of Ammon’s behaviour and instructed him to stop, saying the gifts could be construed as “grooming”, or a pattern of behaviour where an adult creates a relationship with a younger person that makes it easier to enter into a sexual relationship. But both the parents and the panel did not believe this was the case.

Through the end of June 2013 and into July of the same year, the amount of correspondence between Ammon and the student began to intensify. Excerpts from emails show Ammon taking on a religious tone, before culminating in a message written July 30, 2013 at 9:14 p.m.:

“I want you to know directly, I love you young man. I prayed about you today and as you may not be surprised, I expected to hear from you today. I will definitely see you tomorrow, if you’d like. Stay calm and pray the following prayer until tomorrow and before bed tonight.

I plead the blood of Jesus Christ over every aspect of my life and I know that he will cover a multitude of sins.”

Ammon told the student he loved him again in emails dated Aug. 2, 6, 16 and finally one dated on the 20th that read in part, “… You honour me by choosing to sign off with the words “Your son” and I am humbled by this action. I do truly love you young man and I am always here for you in any and all circumstances.”

The mentoring was not part of any school-sponsored program or sports team, and the relationship ended sometime in September or October of 2013.

Ammon received his B.C. teaching certificate in 2005 and started teaching at the school in 2006. The panel also ordered that he complete a course titled “Reinforcing Respectful Professional Boundaries” through the British Columbia Justice Institute or something equivalent.

Since the case took place entirely outside the classroom, the panel found there was no evidence or reason to restrict Ammon from continuing teaching after his suspension, with the exception of not taking part in any extra-curricular duties that include supervision of students on a one-on-one basis until he has completed the course.