‘She robbed me of experiences,’ says Winnipeg man suing teacher over past sexual relationship

A Winnipeg man has filed a lawsuit and a police complaint against his former high school English teacher for engaging in a sexual relationship with him that started when he was 15 years old.

The man, now 22, says he suffered emotionally and turned to alcohol and drugs. The lawsuit alleges what happened was sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and sexual assault, and seeks more than $400,000 in damages.

He and the teacher broke the relationship off when he was 16 but reignited it and made it public when he turned 18, raising concern among his family and friends.

“As I’m maturing, I’m starting to realize that I was a victim,” he said in an interview with CBC. “What she did was wrong, and she should pay the consequences for it.”

CBC News is not naming the teacher or the school because of a court order protecting the man’s identity.

He filed the lawsuit in February 2021 against the teacher and the Seine River School Division, which employed her. He went to Winnipeg police in April.

The lawsuit alleges other teachers and administration at the school were aware of the teacher’s “illicit interactions and overboard attention” toward the student, but nothing was done to “curb or prohibit” the relationship.

As part of the police investigation, a court ordered the school division to turn over the teacher’s employment records, the student’s report cards and documents related to a investigation by the division into the matter to police.

Police records filed in court say the division’s 2018 investigation ended with the teacher resigning from her job that year.

As of this year, she was teaching at a different school elsewhere in Manitoba, court records say.

Invited to teacher’s home, student says

The former student says the relationship with his Grade 10 English teacher began with flirting in class.

Walking home from a class one day, he ran into the teacher, who happened to be driving by, he says. She invited him over to her home, where they started “making out.”

Later, she picked him up again after school around the same area, he says. 

“[It was] kind of like a place we decided. I didn’t have her phone number at the time.… We went to her house and then we had sex that day,” he said.

I just looked at her … like a girlfriend, so I didn’t think anything of it.”

He says the teacher, who was 15 years his senior, told him not to say anything or they would both get in trouble, so he kept quiet.

At some point, don’t you think you’d ask yourself, ‘what the hell is this kid doing here?’… It was in plain sight.– Former student

He wonders why no one one said anything at the time.

“I was talking to her in the hallways — before school, after school. Janitors would see me,” he said.

“At some point, don’t you think you’d ask yourself, ‘what the hell is this kid doing here? Why is he always talking to her, latched onto her like a little dog on a leash?’ Like, it was in plain sight.”

The man’s lawsuit alleges other teachers and administration at the school were aware of the teacher’s ‘illicit interactions and overboard attention’ toward the student, but nothing was done to stop it. (Warren Kay/CBC)

He believes it would be a different story with a female student and a male teacher.

“They look at me like, ‘Oh, it’s just a little boy crush. That’s cute.… Laugh it off.’

“But if it was a girl doing that to the older man … I don’t think they would be laughing or thinking it’s a joke.”

He says they initially broke the relationship off because he was worried about getting caught, but that he struggled with depression and substance addiction for two years after because of it.

“She just made me feel guilty, depressed, anxious,” he said.

“I felt like she was the victim and I was doing her wrong.… She manipulated me that way.”

She would include notes to him with his homework when she returned it, he says.

“I’d open it. My heart would drop.”

The man says the day he turned 18, he asked the teacher on a date and they went public with their relationship.

“I thought being 18, it would be OK — like, socially acceptable. And then as a couple of months went on, I started to notice it wasn’t socially acceptable and that our relationship was based all off of sex and nothing else,” he said.

After four months, he ended the relationship for good.

“I didn’t think it was truly wrong until I was … almost 20 years old. That’s when I started to do the mental switch of, like, ‘that was not OK.’ So it took a long time.”

Division ‘not responsible’: statement of defence

Seine River School Division’s administration and its lawyer, Bernice Bowley, declined to discuss the case while it’s before the court.

In its statement of defence, the school division says it had no knowledge of “an alleged relationship or sexual contact” between the teacher and the student until the lawsuit was filed.

It also says that because the alleged contact took place off school premises and outside school hours, and didn’t involve the teacher’s duties as its employee, “the division was not responsible.”

The division launched its 2018 investigation after a semi-nude photo of the teacher surfaced at the school, according to a May 2021 Winnipeg police production order.

Police said that while the student and teacher routinely engaged in “consensual sex” in an on-again, off-again romantic relationship from February 2015 to April 2018, he could not legally consent due to her position of authority over him.

Teacher alleges student raped her

In her defence statement filed in court, the teacher admits she had sexual intercourse with the student, but says that it was “due to threats of violence and extortion” by the plaintiff.

She claims the student used physical force and coercion to force her into sexual intercourse, threatening to report the sex to authorities. 

She alleges that at no point did she consent to sexual intercourse with the student, and “all intercourse amounted to rape.”

She also alleges he intimidated her by showing a photo of him holding a gun, stalked her and coerced her into sending an intimate image of herself to him, the court documents say, adding she felt her life and job would be threatened if she didn’t comply.

The statement also alleges the semi-nude photo was circulated by the former student at a bar.

She has also filed a counterclaim against the student for damages, distribution of intimate images and sexual battery.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The former student denies the rape allegations and denies circulating the photo.

The teacher’s lawyer, Dave Hill, declined to comment on the case. 

System fails to protect students: advocate

Noni Classen, director of education at the Winnipeg-based Canadian Centre for Child Protection, says young people often take the blame in similar situations.

“[That’s] really devastating because that’s so much of the harm, and why it’s so hard for them to come forward and talk about it.… They feel as though they’ve done something wrong and they’re to blame.”

This case illustrates that “we do not have a system in place to be protecting children from educator sexual misconduct,” she said in an interview with CBC.

Decisions on discipline of teachers should be made public, says the Canadian Centre for Child Protection’s Noni Classen. ‘It’s in the public interest to be aware of individuals who are … disciplined in any capacity, for inappropriate contact with children,’ she says. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

In Manitoba, regulation and discipline of teachers falls to the provincial education department, because there isn’t a self-regulatory body for the profession, as there is in some other provinces. 

A provincial spokesperson says school divisions notify the department if they become aware of any sexual relationship between a teacher and a student. 

The department refers those matters to a certificate review committee, which holds a hearing and makes a recommendation to the education minister, who can then suspend or cancel a teaching certificate. 

When asked whether any of those measures were taken with the teacher involved in this case, the province refused to answer, citing privacy rules under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

28 teachers disciplined since 2016

The province says it does share decisions on certificate suspensions or cancellations with employers of teachers across Canada, but that information is not made available to the general public. 

Since January 2016, Manitoba’s minister of education has taken disciplinary action related to 28 teachers’ certificates, for a range of misconduct, including sexual offences. 

In other provinces, such as Saskatchewan and Ontario, that information would be posted online by teacher regulatory bodies.

“Decisions like that should be made known to the public because it’s in the public interest to be aware of individuals who are … disciplined in any capacity for inappropriate contact with children,” said Classen.

The former student says he decided to speak out because he heard the teacher was working at another school, and he doesn’t want the same thing to happen to another student.

“She robbed me of experiences,” like having relationships with girls his own age, and “robbed me of having a happy … life from age 15 to 18,” he said.

I feel like whoever is hiring her should know the truth.”

View original article here Source