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'It's a serious matter and I take it seriously'

A high school shop teacher who pushed a student and berated him in front of classmates pleaded guilty to assault Thursday.

Andrew Coates, 36, was given an absolute discharge and must pay a $150 fine.

Judge Stephen Harrison said factors in the absolute discharge include an early guilty plea, the fact Coates enrolled in anger management counselling, loss of pay after a temporary suspension and embarrassment suffered after the incident.

An absolute discharge is the lightest penalty a judge may hand down. Coates will not have a criminal record.

The incident occurred Nov. 1, last year. It started in the SKSS parking lot when Grade 9 student Reece Barber walked in front of Coates's car as the teacher drove in the lot.

"There was obviously something going on," Harrison said in his ruling. "It was enough for the student to recognize an apology was due. That wasn't seen by Mr. Coates.

"Mr. Coates was concerned and annoyed by the behaviour. He confronted the student that morning in class. He didn't get the reaction he hoped. He pushed the student back a couple of steps and berated him in front of classmates."

A victim impact statement was entered as part of the proceedings. Barber suffered emotionally and had a sore neck, Harrison said.

Thursday's sentencing is not the end for Coates. The school district suspended him without pay for a month. He now teaches at another school.

School district superintendent Terry Sullivan said it has determined Coates does not pose a risk to students and there are no other sanctions locally.

But his lawyer, Claire Hatcher, said Coates must now go before the Teacher Regulation Branch. It will use the information from the provincial court proceedings as part of its decision on whether to suspend his licence to teach.

Crown lawyer Carol Hawes argued for a conditional discharge, one step higher than an absolute discharge.

But in sentencing, Harrison said the absolute discharge doesn't diminish what happened in the classroom -something he said carries elements of breach of trust and abuse of authority.

"I'm not saying it (charge) shouldn't be brought. . . . It's a serious matter and I take it seriously."

He also said the incident should be taken to heart by anyone who works with children.

"Coaches and others have to restrain their feelings. . . . We can't give vent when we find ourselves annoyed."

? Copyright 2018 Kamloops Daily News