A B.C. teacher who was found guilty of “egregious” professional misconduct will be stripped of his teaching credentials 40 years after first being accused of having sexual relations with three teenage students.
Robert John Robertson, now in his 60s, was a teacher at a Richmond high school in 1976 when he engaged in sexual activities with three girls who were 15 and 16 years old, according to a decision released this week by the B.C. Teacher Regulation Branch.
“His liaisons were not secret. He used his popularity and position to attract girls, going so far as to have sex with one in his school office,” the hearing panel wrote in its decision.
“His conduct was unethical and dishonest by any standard.”
Robertson had a relationship with one 15-year-old on a school-sponsored Mediterranean cruise. Their sexual activity was common knowledge among other students on the cruise, and their relationship continued after the trip.
“In fact, during this period in 1976 the evidence is that many teenage girls actually vied for his attentions and that he relished that,” the decision says.
Other teachers knew or suspected what was going on between Robertson and teenage girls under his supervision, and at least one confronted him with no result.
The parents of one student approached police with their concerns but chose not to support criminal charges against the teacher.
Later in 1976, the Richmond School Board began an investigation of Robertson’s activities and suspended him, but he resigned his position and applied for a job in Vancouver. For some reason, nothing further happened with the school board investigation.
Then in 2005, one of his victims saw a newspaper photo of Robertson at a teachers’ strike rally.
“She had thought he had been disciplined by the Richmond School Board and that that period of her life was over and done with,” the panel wrote.
“She became distressed discovering that no disciplinary action had taken place at all.”
The woman approached the Vancouver School Board and a new investigation was launched in 2006. Robertson resigned from the school board and court documents show he has been teaching at a high school in China.
In 2011, Robertson’s teaching certificate was suspended, but the disciplinary action was delayed, first by his refusal to consent to the process and then by a court application to stop proceedings. In 2014, the B.C. Court of Appeal agreed that the disciplinary hearing should continue.
Two of the students testified at the hearing and said their experiences with Robertson left a mark.
“They both made it clear that their memories of those days remain painful and their experiences at the hands of the Respondent did not serve them well as they matured,” the decision says, adding that Robertson has never shown remorse for his behaviour, referring to the liaisons as “indiscretions,” and has argued that his good teaching record should prove he has “atoned.” It says Robertson avoided sanction by resigning his positions and then delaying the process for years.
The panel cited Robertson’s actions as one of the worst examples of professional misconduct and requested the government immediately cancel his teaching certificates and any letter of permission he may have to teach.