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First of its kind report outlines sexual abuse against nearly 1,300 students in Canadian schools over past two decades

Toronto Star logo Toronto Star 2018-06-14 Robert Cribb - Investigative Reporter

A new report from the Canadian Centre for Child Protection released to the Toronto Star identified 714 school staffers linked to sexual abuse charges, convictions and disciplinary actions between 1997 and 2017. © LYLE STAFFORD A new report from the Canadian Centre for Child Protection released to the Toronto Star identified 714 school staffers linked to sexual abuse charges, convictions and disciplinary actions between 1997 and 2017.

More than 700 Canadian school employees committed — or were charged with committing — child sexual abuse against nearly 1,300 children over the past two decades, says a new report from the Canadian Centre for Child Protection released to the Toronto Star.

The first-ever national inventory of sexual assault cases involving employees of kindergarten to Grade 12 schools identified 714 school staffers linked to sexual abuse charges, convictions and disciplinary actions between 1997 and 2017.

“That’s 1,300 victims whose lives have been absolutely damaged,” said Noni Classen, the centre’s director of education. “We know the impact of this type of offence, the betrayal of trust by someone who holds such a privileged position of power for children. The fallout and corrosion of that on their development is devastating. And we know this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Eighty-six per cent of the perpetrators were certified teachers. Educational assistants, student teachers, special-needs assistants, lunch monitors, custodians and school bus drivers made up the remaining 14 per cent. Nearly 140 of the offenders had secondary occupations providing them with added access to children including roles as sports coaches, tutors, community youth workers and guidance counsellors.

In all, the perpetrators were overwhelmingly men — 87 per cent — preying on girls — 75 per cent.

Victim impact statements filed with courts in the cases gathered by researchers reveal “the betrayal of trust and abuse of power” that has “serious, lasting impacts on the victims,” the study reads.

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“My mind will be forever scarred,” reads a court-filed statement from one survivor. “You took my childhood and my hope for happiness. I went from a child to an adult in a matter of moments and there is no way back.”

Another reads: “Depression has been a large portion of both my child and adult life. It has caused me to self-direct my anger, wreaked havoc on relationships, and hindered my career.”

The range of victims who detail their anguish in court statements cited in the report also includes parents and family members.

“The moment I found out my son was sexually abused by a man we called his teacher, his mentor, but worst of all, our friend, was the day my life was shattered,” wrote one mother of a victim quoted in the report.

The data was gathered from three sets of records — criminal cases, professional disciplinary records and Canadian media reports — detailing allegations and findings of sexual offences.

The authors concede the actual number of teachers disciplined for sexual improprieties is under-reported since disciplinary records are not made public by most teacher regulation bodies across the country.

Only three provincial teacher licensing bodies — in Ontario, B.C. and Saskatchewan — publish disciplinary decisions publicly.

In the other provinces and territories, media reports were the only source of information available to researchers. For example, the media was the sole source of information in 33 per cent of all the cases, including 86 per cent of Manitoba cases, three quarters of the cases in Prince Edward Island, Alberta and Nunavut and around 70 per cent of cases in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

“It is … troubling the media alone is responsible for providing most information about cases in those provinces that do not publish details about offenders employed or formerly employed in their schools,” the study reads. “Much greater transparency is required.”

Without it, abusive conduct that fails to trigger criminal charges or convictions can remain entirely unreported to the public.

“It is crazy how we cannot get access to information,” said Classen. “This profession involves public trust. It’s mandatory for kids to attend school. In every other profession that involves public trust — doctors, lawyers and others — that disciplinary information is publicly available.”

Nearly three quarters of offenders — 73 per cent — were charged with at least one criminal offence, including sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual interference and child pornography-related offences. Just over half — 52 per cent — were charged with multiple offences and five per cent were charged with 10 or more offences.

Among those cases is that of former Hamilton teacher Giuseppe Graziano who was convicted twice for sexual offences involving students — in 2013 and 2015 — for offences that included engaging in sexual activities with one student in Graziano’s classroom, his home and a trailer Graziano owned over a three-year period and touching another student’s penis over his pants.

A disciplinary committee of Ontario’s teacher’s college, in a 2016 decision revoking Graziano’s licence, wrote that the teacher, “abused his position of trust and authority in the gravest manner.”

The largest number of charges detailed in the report against any single offender: 95.

That distinction belongs to former Oshawa teacher Jeremy Raymond Pike who was eventually convicted on 10 counts of sexually assaulting eight young boys between the ages of two and 14, which included the recording of child pornography.

Pike restrained the boys’ legs during sexual intercourse and touching, filmed hours of video and snapped thousands of photographs documenting his abuse. He gained the trust of families by becoming a close friend, taking the children on trips to the park and even applying to be a foster parent to young boys.

In a 2008 disciplinary decision revoking Pike’s teaching licence, the Ontario teachers college called his “planned and deliberate” actions “heinous.”

Pike also received the longest sentence measured in the report: 14 years.

In all, 78 per cent of all school employees charged with a criminal offence were convicted through a guilty plea or trial. The remaining 22 per cent were acquitted or had charges stayed or withdrawn.

Half of the guilty verdicts resulted in sentences of less than two years in custody; 21 per cent received sentences of two years or more and 30 per cent received absolute discharges, suspended sentences and jail time as little as one day, according to the findings.

The report also investigates the methods used by offenders to lure their victims.

Seventy per cent of the offenders used “grooming behaviour,” including manipulating children into becoming a “co-operating participant” in the activities to reduce the chances of disclosure, the study found.

“In the time between the inappropriate conduct and sentencing, many of these victims, in their own words, developed a sense of having lost their childhood and an understanding that the relationship was manipulative or exploitative,” the report reads.

Another quarter of offenders used “opportunism” to sexually abuse children — taking advantage of a situation for one-time sexual assaults.

“They did not appear to have a made a concerted effort to build a relationship with the child,” the report reads. “Opportunistic offenders often take less time and have less of an emotional investment than those who groom victims.”

Of all the cases, 10 per cent involved child pornography offences and another three per cent involved child pornography with “contact” offences against children.

The report makes several recommendations to address the risk to students, including better education for school staff about the impacts of sexual abuse on children, higher standards of accountability and transparency when allegations of abuse are raised by students and clarifying teachers’ reporting obligations to ensure concerns are brought to the attention of senior school administrators.

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