Teacher loses license over sexual abuse

Recorder & Times [Toronto, Ontario, Canada]

February 8, 2023

By Sabrina Bedford

The Catholic school board has identified a former teacher whose license was recently revoked after a disciplinary committee found he sexually abused a student in the early 2000s.

The Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario says it recently became aware that one of its former teachers, Edward Michael Oliver, had his license revoked for apparent “professional misconduct” involving the sexual abuse of a student.

The school board says Oliver was employed for 31 days as an occasional teacher at St. John Catholic High School in Perth before assuming a contract position for five months more than a decade ago.

He has not been employed by the board since that time.

According to a decision handed down by the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) in August 2022, Oliver “engaged in a personal relationship with” a student, “spent time alone” with her in his personal vehicle and in his residence, and discussed his personal life with her.

Over a five-month period, Oliver “engaged in sexual touching” with the student, “engaged in sexual intercourse” with her on “one or more occasions,” and “left a bruise or ‘hickey’” on her neck, the college found.

He was found guilty of professional misconduct based on these actions, but these are not criminal charges. The school board said it found out about the college’s decision on Jan. 27.

The OCT, the regulatory body that licenses, regulates, and governs people in the teaching profession in the province, held a hearing after a student came forward with complaints about the teacher’s conduct.

It called one witness, the complainant, to give her account of what happened.

The student, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, filed a complaint with the college “to get some closure in her life” in 2017, but “did not pursue the complaint at that time because she got scared.”

In the years that followed, the student testified she “began to understand what had happened” between her and the teacher, and once again pursued her complaint in June 2019.

In her testimony, she said “she could not go on thinking that another student could go through a similar experience at the hands of the (teacher),” the college said.

They found her evidence was credible, and found the teacher “engaged in professional misconduct, which included the sexual abuse of a student.”

They said this conduct “would reasonably be regarded by members as disgraceful, dishonourable and unprofessional.”

“Sexual abuse of a student is the most egregious form of abuse that a teacher can commit and represents an egregious breach of trust committed by members who hold a position of authority over students,” the college wrote.

“When students go to school, they, their parents, and the public expect that they will be safe and treated with respect. The Member’s conduct breached such expectations.”

Oliver did not attend the hearing and did not have legal representation. As a result of the finding, his teaching license was revoked, and he was ordered to pay $10,000 for the cost of the proceedings.

This marks the third public case of a teacher being accused of sexual misconduct at the embattled high school.

In December, criminal charges were laid by the OPP against 59-year-old David Alexander Giroux, a teacher at St. John Catholic High School. He was charged with six counts of sexual interference after a six-month-long police investigation into a complaint from a student.

Also, in 2021, St. John teacher Jeff Peters pleaded guilty to sexual assault of one student and sexual exploitation of a second.

Peters, who was charged in 2019 and was still a teacher at the time of the offences, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison. Before he entered his plea, there were also rumours of an alleged “going away party” that included Peters and current teachers at the school.

Responding to concerns from the community about the safety and overall culture at St. John, the board said it is working to ensure the school is a safe place for students.

“It is the responsibility of the school board and school administration to ensure a safe environment for students. We are deeply concerned about the impact on former and current students, families, and the broader St. John Catholic High School community,” board officials said in an emailed statement to The Recorder and Times.

“In recent years, we have implemented a range of training and measures in an effort to ensure that St. John Catholic High School, and all our schools, are as safe as possible for students now, and in the future.”

Late last year, the board announced it had implemented a series of training and workshops in an effort to prevent sexual abuse against students.

The board outlined 13 different measures in the name of “child protection and sexual abuse prevention,” including a variety of workshops for school board staff on subjects like workplace violence and harassment prevention, sexual abuse prevention training, a “community response table” with St. John staff and community members, and learning about the duty to report.

For students, classroom presentations from support workers, administration, and community partners were also brought in.