Qualicum teacher fires back

Teacher takes independent investigator hired by School District 69 to court over defamation allegations

By Candace Wu and Auren Ruvinskynews@pqbnews.com / writer@pqbnews.com

A Qualicum teacher who was fired over allegations of rape and torture – eventually found to come from the TV show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit – has fired back in civil court.

He’s now suing the independent investigator hired by School District 69 whose report allegedly resulted in his dismissal and tarnished reputation.

On Feb. 17, the male teacher, who lives in Nanoose Bay but taught in Qualicum according to court documents, filed a notice of civil claim with the Supreme Court of B.C. to sue a Victoria lawyer and investigator for negligence and defamation in repeating the allegations, which led to his being fired.

In the civil suit, he claims he suffered “personal embarrassment and humiliation.”

Both the teacher and the investigator were contacted by The NEWS but declined to comment.

The investigator was hired by School District 69 in Nov. 2012 to investigate claims of a female student that the teacher had allegedly abused her in horrific, sadistic sexual ways when she was in Grades 5 to 8. The investigator’s report came out in favour of the student and resulted in the teacher’s dismissal.

Much of the story comes to light through labour arbitrator Joan McEwen’s 78-page report in response to the teacher’s grievance through the B.C. Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) over the loss of his job.

The report concludes the School District “failed to meet its burden of proof; the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that the teacher is the victim of false allegations.”

It states: “The grievance must be upheld and the teacher made whole as soon as possible.”

Awarded last July, McEwen’s report emphasizes the complex nature of the case:

“Should the student be believed the teacher is one of the most heinous sexual monsters of our time. Should the teacher be believed the student is a very troubled young person.”

According to court documents filed by the teacher, the student first made the claims to a school counselor in early 2012 and identified the teacher seven months later.

The McEwen report lists staggering details of the student’s allegations including years of abuse and rape allegedly perpetrated by the teacher; alleged assault and rape by a police officer and forced prostitution by a man referred to as “John” suggested to be the girl’s pimp.

But most of the allegations are focused on the teacher, who the student claimed performed horrific assaults on her, including burning a word into her midriff and allegedly nearly drowning her by water-boarding, among many disturbing allegations.

Within days, on Sept. 30, 2012 the teacher was arrested and the RCMP recommended charges of sexual exploitation under Criminal Code sec. 153. The teacher was suspended with pay.

Less than a month later, Crown counsel declined to approve the charges.

Oceanside RCMP Cpl. Jesse Foreman confirmed Friday police were involved in an investigation in 2012 in relation to School District 69 but declined to further comment.

“We do not publicly discuss cases where no criminal charges have been laid,” he told The NEWS Friday morning.

The school district hired the independent investigator in 2012 to look into the student’s allegations.

The investigator’s report, rendered Feb. 23, 2013, supported the student’s allegations that would later be described as “so inherently unlikely to be believable” by arbitrator McEwen’s report.

“I conclude that the respondent engaged in significant verbal, physical and sexual misconduct over a number of years,” reads the independent investigator’s report, as cited in the the arbitrator McEwen’s report.

The independent investigator recommended the school district ban the teacher from having any involvement with students and remain a significant distance away from school property.

At that time, The NEWS reported that an unnamed teacher had been fired and “administrators further instructed staff not to engage with the teacher if he/she comes on school grounds, but to report it to administration.”

According to Anita Roberts, sexual health advocate and founder of SafeTeen International, one in 10 sexual assaults are reported — and of that, two to eight per cent turn out to be false allegations.

Roberts said false sexual assault allegations are no greater than false reporting of any other crime.

“The vast majority are true,” she told The NEWS from Vancouver, noting the importance of taking every single sexual assault allegation seriously.

“It’s very hard to prove a rape and if someone is falsely accused that’s a terrible thing to do to someone and there should be consequences,” said Roberts. “However, this idea that a man’s whole life is ruined is so conflated in the media and in people’s minds…How many hundreds of women are being raped? Doesn’t that ruin their lives?”

The Qualicum teacher denied all allegations made against him by the student. The allegations leveled by the teacher against the independent investigator have not been proven in a court of law.

According to the arbitrator McEwen’s report, while the student claimed to be the victim of physical abuse, including severe burning, no burn marks or scars were noted by medical exams during the time of the allegations. While she claimed she communicated with the teacher via e-mail, police failed to located a single e-mail exchange between the two.

Five weeks after police told the girl charges were being withdrawn from the teacher due to lack of hard evidence, she produced a diary she claimed to have written in Grade 6 though she previously stated she burned all her diaries.

The student admitted she was a “big fan” of the police show Law & Order: SVU, saying she watched every episode of the 15-season series at least three times, sometimes as many as ten times. Many of the allegations she brought forward seemed to mirror specific episodes including plot, character and setting.

The McEwen report concludes “that the employer has failed to meet its burden of proof; the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that the teacher is the victim of false allegations. The grievance must be upheld and the teacher made whole as soon as possible.”

The district and BCTF are currently meeting about a claim for damages in a Nanaimo hotel room.

BCTF president Jim Iker declined to comment since the “arbitration proceedings around this case are ongoing,” and would only say “the BCTF works hard to ensure all of our members have access to due process.”

School District 69 superintendent Rollie Koop and board chair Eve Flynn both said it would be inappropriate for them to comment on the case which is currently before arbitration and the courts.

The teacher is suing the investigator independently of the BCTF.

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