Canada: Teacher And School Civil Liability For Sexual Abuse Of A Student

Last Updated: November 26 2014
Article by Brian Vail, QC

B. (A.) v. D. (C.), [2011] B.C.J. No. 1087, 2011 BCSC 775, per Gray J. [3851]

The plaintiff AB sued a teacher CD and the Board of School Trustees of District EF with respect to alleged sexual abuse she claimed to have suffered at the hands of her former high school teacher CD. The allegations related to the time she went to high school at the GH School. The court substituted alphabetical pseudonyms for people and places pursuant to an order prohibiting publication of any information that would tend to identify the plaintiff.

The court felt it necessary to employ pseudonyms with respect to the name of the teacher, the high school and the school board that were involved on this basis.

The plaintiff AB excelled academically throughout her schooling. When she attended high school, she lived with her parents and siblings in a small British Columbia community. She attended high school at the GH School, a school of 1,200 students (250 in each grade). In the summer between her Grade 9 and Grade 10 years, AB had "unwanted sexual intercourse" with a boy her own age. Although she was initially interested in the sexual activity, she withdrew her consent during the course of the event, but the boy persisted. The plaintiff referred to this event as a "date rape".

When AB began Grade 10, one of her teachers was CD. He was a male, in his 50s, with a long career in teaching. He was the head of the English Department. He was charismatic. His students performed well in provincial examinations. Neither the school board nor the school had ever received a complaint of inappropriate sexual activity against him. The only complaints that had previously been made against him were that he could be harsh with students who performed poorly.

In Grade 10, the plaintiff was in CD's Grade 10 English class for advanced English students. She was sometimes singled out by him for praise. She enjoyed and did well at English literature and writing, something which CD encouraged her to develop.

In her Grade 11 year, the plaintiff took an English class and a Writing class from another teacher, winning a prize in the Writing class. She did not take any classes from CD in Grade 11, but still considered him to be her favourite teacher. She regularly visited his classroom, about once a week, discussing the status of her English studies and educational plans. Other students were present on those occasions. She had a boyfriend for most of her Grade 11 year. Near the end of AB's Grade 11 year, another teacher (YZ) was suspended from the GH School for allegedly having become sexually involved with another student. The allegation was that YZ had engaged in this contact outside school and school hours. The student who was allegedly abused by teacher YZ was a "peer tutor". That teacher was eventually acquitted of the allegations.

The GH School encouraged students to take on the role of "peer tutor". A peer tutor was a senior high school student who assisted a teacher in teaching junior high school students in a subject area for which the peer tutor showed a particular interest and aptitude.

To read the full article please click here.

Originally published in Risk Management in Canadian Education, November 2014, Volume 15, No. 2

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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