‘I lost my entire childhood’: Victims allege former teacher sexually assaulted them and school did nothing to stop him

CALGARY –

Three former students of Calgary’s John Ware Junior High School are speaking out, alleging school staff didn’t do enough to stop a teacher who was sexually assaulting them and their teenage peers decades ago.

A $40 million class action lawsuit has now been filed against the Calgary Board of Education and the estate of Michael Gregory, a former teacher who was at the school between 1986 and 2006.

In February, Gregory was charged with 17 counts of sexual assault and sexual exploitation. He died by suicide days after the charges were announced by the Calgary Police Service.

Police say an additional 10 victims and 35 witnesses reached out to investigators after initial charges were made public and that the investigation against Gregory remains open.

Kelly Schneider, Eryn MacKenzie and Cody Bonkowsky are the plaintiffs in the lawsuit and were students at John Ware in the 1980’s, 90’s and early 2000’s.

In speaking to journalists on Monday, the three detailed sexual assaults, inappropriate comments and conduct by Gregory all endured or witnessed by them. Schneider, MacKenzie and Bonkowsky say the “predatory behaviour” by Gregory was well known within the school and was reported to school administration, but nothing was done.

A statement of defence has not been filed and the allegations have not been proven in court.

‘HE MADE ME UNDRESS’

Kelly Schneider was a student of Gregory’s for grade eight and nine in 1988 and ’89, during which she says he sexually assaulted her. She says the teacher starting flirting with her and also bought her gifts, including a gold necklace, mix tapes, a book of poetry and a poster that Gregory had written on ‘Love Mike.’

“He made me undress in front of a group of boys. He and another teacher picked me up — one on each arm — and threw me into the gym teachers’ shower and soaked me in a white t-shirt,” Schneider said.

She says her and her parents went to the school to speak to the principal, but nothing was done about Gregory’s behaviour or their concerns.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t talk to the principal, we could only manage to talk to the vice-principal, which was a good friend of (Gregory’s). The vice-principal at the time made it okay for Mike (Gregory) to continue to do what he was doing,” she says.

“The biggest problem I have with all of this is, honestly, had I been believed in the late 80’s and had Mike (Gregory) honestly been dealt with properly at the time, Eryn (MacKenzie) would never or should never have crossed paths with this man.”

‘IT HAS AFFECTED EVERY SINGLE RELATIONSHIP I’VE HAD IN MY LIFE’

Eryn MacKenzie was a student at John Ware a decade after Schneider and her parents raised concerns about Gregory and met the teacher when she was 14 years old.

During an unsanctioned canoe trip in the summer, MacKenzie says Gregory encouraged her and other teen girls to expose themselves and she says he spent the night in a classmate’s tent.

In her grade eight and nine years, she says Gregory would take her on long drives and take her to his acreage.

“My very first sexual experience was with my teacher at his house when I was 15,” she said Monday, choking back tears.

“I’m 34 now and it has affected every single relationship I’ve had in my life. Whether that’s with my family, who I’ve felt I had to keep this from; whether that’s with my friends, who I was isolated and ostracized from; whether that’s with past male partners and boyfriends. It affects me every single day of my life.”

“I lost my entire childhood and, additionally, I’ve lost a large portion of my adult years. Definitely feel cheated,” MacKenzie said. 

‘NOTHING WAS DONE’

Cody Bonkowsky was friends with MacKenzie and also attended John Ware from 1999-2002. He says he heard Gregory having inappropriate conversations with several of his classmates.

“I remember using the family change room after our canoeing classes and, on more than one occasion, witnessed Mike Gregory in the family change room with young girls in various stages of undress — most of which had no bottoms on,” Bonkowsky said.

He says he confronted Gregory at one point and was pushed against the wall by the teacher, who told him that no one would believe his allegations if he were to report them to school officials or police.

“I also went to my guidance counsellor on two occasions to report it. Nothing was done,” Bonkowsky said.

“It’s time for change, it’s time for accountability and it’s time for justice to be served for these women.”

The class action lawsuit was filed last week in Calgary. In a short emailed statement, the CBE said it had not been served the suit.

“Once that occurs, we will respond through the appropriate legal channels,” the statement reads.

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