“School head didn’t alert police to sex assault: affidavit” & related articles

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Ottawa school headmaster received legal advice too late, victim’s father says in affidavit

Posted: Jan 30, 2013 6:33 AM ET

Last Updated: Jan 30, 2013 7:15 AM ET

Jamie Long, CBC News

The headmaster of an Ottawa private school says he should have alerted police immediately after the 2007 sexual assault of a 16-year-old student on a school trip to Boston, according to the victim’s father.

The statement from Ashbury College headmaster Tam Matthews was included in the father’s sworn affidavit from February 2012. It is part of a lawsuit first filed more than three years ago by the victim’s family, which is suing Matthews, teachers Alyssa Novick and Ian Middleton, two other teachers, three students and the school seeking $150,000 in damages.

Tam Matthews has been the headmaster of Ashbury College since 2000.

Tam Matthews has been the headmaster of Ashbury College since 2000. (CBC)

The family has claimed the school did not deal with the victim appropriately and responded out of self-interest by not contacting Boston police immediately.

None of the family’s allegations in regards to the response to the incident have been proven. The defendants have also denied the allegations.

The affidavit, which the defence chose not to cross-examine, alleged Matthews told the court he should have immediately reported the sexual assault to Boston police, he should not have told his teachers to fly two of the accused back to Ottawa and he should not have told the teachers to send evidence back to Ottawa.

The affidavit also alleged Matthews, who was in Ottawa directing his teachers in Boston, only received legal advice from Ashbury’s lawyer more than 24 hours after the incident.

2 accused, evidence wrongly flown back to Ottawa, affidavit alleges

One student has pleaded guilty in a Massachusetts court to charges of indecent assault and battery connected to the November 2007 incident. It involved three students pinning the victim to his bed, while another sexually assaulted him and a fifth videotaped the attack.

Two of the boys were flown back to Ottawa the day after the sexual assault along with two pieces of evidence — a laptop and camera — which was ordered by Matthews, according to a police report also included as part of the affidavit.

All of the students accused were boys and they went to the private school, which is co-ed for Grades 4 to 12.

Novick’s summary of the incident, also submitted in court and mentioned in the affidavit, said the victim’s family was contacted less than 12 hours after the victim reported the incident.

Victim’s family first to alert police, affidavit says

The police report mentioned in the affidavit also revealed an Ottawa police sergeant was the first to contact Boston police several hours after the incident, which came after the victim’s family alerted Ottawa police to the incident.

Ashbury College, which first opened in 1891, is a private school in Ottawa's Rockcliffe neighbourhood, east of downtown.

Ashbury College, which first opened in 1891, is a private school in Ottawa’s Rockcliffe neighbourhood, east of downtown. (CBC)

Ashbury College continues to defend its teachers saying they were professional and co-operated fully with police. Their lawyer refused comment but the school chairman said Tuesday he is confident in how his teachers responded.

“They followed, very carefully, the policies and procedures the school sets out for its trips…we found in that very difficult situation the teachers handled themselves well,” said Chris Teron.

“They most certainly continue to teach at Ashbury, they continue to lead trips and I think continue to have the respect of the students and staff at the school.”

Teachers’ hearing ends Feb. 21

The Ontario College of Teachers is currently charging Novick and Middleton, history teachers at Ashbury College who were in Boston with the students, with professional misconduct.

The college alleges the two teachers “failed to immediately notify the parents” of the student. It is also alleging the two teachers refused to report the sexual assault to police.

Novick is also accused of falsely telling the parents the student did not want to report the incident to police and discouraging the student from reporting the sexual assault to police.

None of the allegations against either teacher have been proven. The hearing, which began in late November, is scheduled to end Feb. 21.

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Ashbury teacher in tears as colleague describes effect of misconduct allegations

‘I’ve been called a criminal. I’m being sued. It’s too much for me’

The Ottawa Citizen

By Denise Balkissoon, Ottawa Citizen January 29, 2013

Ashbury teacher in tears as colleague describes effect of misconduct allegations

Ashbury teacher in tears as colleague describes effect of misconduct allegations

Ashbury College teachers Ian Middleton, right, and Alyssa Novick leave a disciplinary hearing in Toronto on Tuesday. They are accused of trying to cover up a sex assault on a pupil that occurred five years ago during a school trip to Boston.

Photograph by: Chris Young , Chris Young

TORONTO — One of two Ashbury College teachers accused of covering up a sexual assault among students broke down in tears at a disciplinary hearing in Toronto on Tuesday.

Alyssa Novick cried as she listened to testimony from fellow teacher Lyne Desfosses about how allegations of misconduct on a November 2007 field trip to Boston had affected her life.

Novick and Ian Middleton, longtime teachers at the Rockcliffe private school, are facing an Ontario College of Teachers disciplinary panel over allegations of professional misconduct. They are charged with failing to notify parents and police that a student in their care was assaulted by a group of other students while on the field trip.

Novick is also accused of discouraging the student from contacting police, and of falsely telling his parents that he didn’t want the police involved.

Novick detailed Tuesday how she, Middleton and fellow Ashbury teachers Desfosses and Hugh Penton learned of the assault and how they chose to deal with it while supervising 49 students on the weekend trip.

The panel heard that the assaulted student, then 16 years old, was confronted in his hotel room by a group of four others on the Friday night of the trip. One student held the victim in a headlock while another violated him. Another of the students videotaped the incident while the last watched.

The teachers spent four hours, from about 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., interviewing the students involved and contacting Ashbury headmaster Tam Matthews, Novick testified. Matthews told them he would contact Ottawa police.

The students who held down and assaulted the boy were sent home on the next flight to Ottawa, Novick said.

But Novick denied that in a series of phone calls with the boy’s mother the next day she had tried to dissuade her from calling the Boston police.

“(The boy) didn’t want his father to come down and take him to the police and interrupt the trip,” said Novick. “I was asking, Why do something that (the boy) didn’t want done?”

Novick agreed with Ontario College of Teachers lawyer Eli Mogil that she asked the victim’s mother to consider the effect of police involvement on the assailants as well as on her son.

Novick said she asked the mother why she wanted her son taken to the Boston police against his wishes. She said she also told the mother that she wasn’t convinced she should take the other two boys to a police station in Boston to be arrested without their parents.

When the student’s mother “unequivocally” requested the teacher call the Boston police, Novick said, she first had Middleton discuss it with Matthews, who said he would make the phone call.

Desfosses — subject of a previously dismissed Ontario College of Teachers complaint about the incident — testified Tuesday as well, saying she had known Novick and Middleton for almost a decade at the time of the trip and considers them friends and mentors.

She corroborated Novick’s testimony that the assaulted student didn’t want his parents involved. “I asked (the boy) if he had called home and he said no, he had turned his phone off,” Desfosses said. “I told him he had to call his mother, she was worried, and he said that his mother would freak out and that he didn’t want to go home. He wanted to stay and have fun.”

The teachers’ lawyer, Peter Engelmann, asked Desfosses why she hasn’t supervised a school trip since 2007.

“I’m just not ready,” said Desfosses, beginning to cry. “I’ve been called a criminal; I’m being sued. It’s too much for me.” During a break, a tearful Novick got up to embrace the younger teacher.

All four teacher supervisors, as well as Matthews, the four boys who participated in the incident, and Ashbury College, still face a civil suit about the incident. None of the allegations in the civil suit has been proven in court.

In 2010, the student who committed the assault and the student who held the victim down pleaded guilty to assault in Boston. Both minors at the time of the incident, they received probation and were ordered to get counselling.

If found guilty, Novick and Middleton could lose their teaching certifications. The hearing is scheduled to continue Feb. 11 and conclude Feb. 21.

With files from The Canadian Press

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Ottawa teacher accused of hiding sex assault breaks down on stand

The Ottawa Sun

28 January 2013 at 1:29 PM

Jenny Yuen

Ottawa teachers Alyssa Novick, left, and Ian Middleton are Ontario College of Teachers office on Monday. (JACK BOLAND/Toronto Sun)

A veteran teacher accused of covering up a student sex assault during a 2007 field trip broke down Tuesday while testifying to the Ontario College of Teachers.

Alyssa Novick, who has been teaching for 20 years, dabbed her eyes with a tissue as she described how the allegations have affected her personally and professionally.

“It’s been a constant cloud. The press have made it worse,” she told the panel and her lawyer, Peter Engelmann.

“As a result of this, I will never be remembered as Alyssa Novick, history teacher, as my legacy. And I will be vilified and changed … and it can’t be recaptured.”

Novick and colleague Ian Middleton — both teachers at Ottawa’s Ashbury College — are before the OCT to face accusations arising from a field trip to Boston in November 2007.

During the trip, a 16-year-old boy was pinned down, assaulted and videotaped by four other boys in his hotel room.

College prosecutors have alleged that after learning of the incident, Novick failed to inform the victim’s parents and discouraged the boy from going to police.

She’s also accused of lying to the boy’s parents — telling them that he didn’t want to report the assault — and that she refused a request from them to report it to police.

Middleton is also accused of failing to notify the boy’s parents about the attack and refusing their request to notify police.

Both teachers are currently in good standing in their profession. However, if found guilty they could face revocation of their teaching credentials.

One boy pleaded guilty for assault and battery in the case in a Boston court.

The panel of three council members also heard Tuesday morning that Novick was interviewed in February 2008 by Boston Police but not charged with any crime.

“It was a terrible crime. And I felt terrible. And I am very sorry it happened on my trip, on my watch,” Novick testified.

“All of a sudden, everything changed. I was under attack, being doubted, it was vicious … I was being called a criminal and being interviewed by the Boston Police.”

When cross-examined by the college’s lawyer Eli Mogil, Novick maintained she was “not unequivocal” that the victim had been sexually assaulted, despite the incident being “serious enough” to send two of the alleged perpetrators home and for teachers to conduct an investigation the following early morning.

Mogil suggested teachers were negligent in departing Boston without checking in with police or the victim’s parents first.

The parents have launched a $220,000 civil suit, claiming the school didn’t help their child and that out of self-interest failed to immediately contact Boston Police.

The hearing will resume Feb. 11.

— With files from Tony Spears, QMI Agency

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2 Ottawa teachers accused of hiding field trip sex assault

At least 1 student pleaded guilty to 2007 sexual assault in Massachusetts court

CBC News

Posted: Jan 28, 2013 6:51 AM ET

Last Updated: Jan 29, 2013 11:53 AM ET

By Jamie Long,

Two Ottawa private school teachers could soon face professional discipline for allegations they tried to cover up the sexual assault of a 16-year-old student during a school trip to Boston, Mass., more than five years ago.

An Ontario College of Teachers disciplinary hearing is ongoing in Toronto for Alyssa Novick, a history and geography teacher, and Ian Middleton, a history teacher and rugby coach, who were part of an Ashbury College school trip in November 2007.

The college has accused each teacher of professional misconduct.

The college alleges Novick and Middleton “failed to immediately notify the parents” of the student who was sexually assaulted by his classmates while on the school trip.

It is also alleging the pair, who continue to work at Ashbury, refused to report the sexual assault to police.

Novick is also accused of falsely telling the parents the student did not want to report the incident to police and discouraging the student from reporting the sexual assault to police.

None of the allegations against either teacher have been proven. The hearing, which began in late November, is scheduled to end Feb. 21.

Teachers hope for end to accusations

The family also pushed to have the teachers charged criminally, according to Peter Engelmann, a lawyer for the teachers.

He said the process has been “long and difficult” for the teachers and they hope the disciplinary hearing signals the final set of accusations against them.

Ashbury College headmaster Tam Matthews is one of the defendants in a case involving the family of a former student sexually assaulted while on a school trip in the U.S.

Ashbury College headmaster Tam Matthews is one of the defendants in a case involving the family of a former student sexually assaulted while on a school trip in the U.S. (CBC)

“I think it’s difficult for any professional to have charges like this hanging over your head for such a long period of time, and they’ve been anxious to have this resolved in a fair and open way a long time ago,” Engelmann said over the phone from Toronto.

“They’re doing the best they can to cope and hopefully this will be over in the near future. It’s unfortunate it’s taken the time it has.”

Guilty plea for sexual assault

One student has pleaded guilty to charges of indecent assault and battery in a Massachusetts court connected to the incident.

The sexual assault involved three students pinning the victim to his bed, while another sexually assaulted him and a fifth allegedly videotaped the attack.

The assault also pushed the victim, who was only identified in court documents as J.W.1, and his parents to sue Novick, Middleton, two other teachers, three students, the school’s headmaster and the school seeking $150,000 in damages.

They claim the school did not deal with the victim appropriately and responded out of self-interest by not contacting Boston police immediately.

Family, private school continue court battle

That case, first launched in November 2009, is still ongoing. Ashbury, its headmaster and the teachers also filed a statement of defence in May 2010 seeking compensation of all legal costs from the three accused students,

The school has also defended its teachers, saying they handled the incident in a professional manner, co-operating fully with police. Their lawyer refused comment.

None of the family’s allegations in regards to the response to the incident have been proven.

All of the students accused were boys and they went to the private school, which is co-ed for Grades 4 to 12. The school was founded in 1891.

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Guilty plea by former Ashbury College student

The Ottawa Sun

First posted: | Updated:

LAURA CZEKAJ, Ottawa Sun

A former Ashbury College student pleaded guilty in a Boston courtroom on Wednesday to charges connected with an assault on a classmate during a school trip to Boston in 2007.

The 19-year-old man was found guilty of assault and battery and was sentenced to four years of probation. During his probation, he is prohibited from contacting the victim or the victim’s family except during court proceedings connected to a civil suit filed in Ottawa court.

The Suffolk County District Attorney’s office confirmed that the man must be evaluated for sex offender or bullying treatment and must report monthly to Massachusetts probation officers by phone.

If the Ottawa man breaches his conditions, he can face up to two-and-a-half years in jail.

In court the man expressed his regret for the incident to the victim and the victim’s family.

The victim brushed aside the apology, telling the man in his victim impact statement that what he did was “horrible and sick, and you must pay for it.”

The victim, who was 16 at the time of the assault, said it has left him feeling vulnerable, both physically and psychologically, and caused his relationships with friends to deteriorate.

“You severely affected my life,” the victim told court. “It is not as though you acted in this way towards a 40-year-old man who has already been through adolescence and has established a positive self-knowledge and self-identity. You did this to me, someone who should be completely innocent in your mind.”

The assault occurred at a Boston hotel on Nov. 16, 2007 when several classmates entered the victim’s room and pinned him to his bed.

The man admitted in court that he committed an “act of unlawful touching” of the victim during the assault, confirmed a spokesman from the district attorney’s office.

The man was accused of grabbing the victim’s genitals and digitally penetrating his anus.

A third student allegedly videotaped the attack, according to court documents filed by the victim.

The 17-year-old student who was accused of holding the victim down, will appear in Suffolk County juvenile court next month.

The Ottawa civil suit names as defendants three Ashbury College students, four teachers, the headmaster and the school.

The family claims the school delayed calling Boston police, flew the two suspects and the videotape back to Ottawa and “effectively expelled” the victim and his siblings.

The school denies the allegations.

[email protected]

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Elite Ottawa school covered up sexual assault, lawsuit contends

The Toronto Globe and Mail

Daniel Leblanc

Ottawa — From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail

Published

Last updated

Ashbury College is an elite private school sitting on 12 leafy acres in Ottawa’s Rockcliffe Park, with a list of alumni that boasts the likes of former prime minister John Turner.

The school charges more than $18,000 a year for day students and $42,000 for boarders, and it has the sterling reputation to match. But now the institution founded in 1891 is facing allegations that it covered up the sexual assault of a 16-year-old boy – and then forced the student and his two siblings to leave the school when their parents wouldn’t sign a document attesting to the “good faith” of Ashbury officials.

By all accounts, the incident occurred on a class trip to Boston two years ago. The 16-year-old boy, identified by the initials J.W., was in his hotel room when four classmates entered, held him in a leg lock, grabbed his genitals and prodded his anus. The incident was filmed on a video camera and uploaded to a computer, but has not been seen publicly.

Ashbury expelled the four students one month later. But according to a lawsuit filed in an Ottawa court last week, J.W. “experienced the additional victimization” of being kicked out as well. “[J.W., his sister and their brother]were effectively expelled from Ashbury and left to conclude that they were receiving the same treatment [as the four students]involved in the assault, who were also expelled from Ashbury,” says the statement of claim filed in Ontario Superior Court by the W. family.

Ashbury has yet to respond in court to the lawsuit, which contains unproven allegations.

In a statement, the college’s headmaster Tam Matthews said: “The school has thoroughly investigated the affair, taken disciplinary action where appropriate, and co-operated with the authorities. It fully supports the actions of the teachers on the trip. It regrets the outcome for the victim and his family, but will vigorously defend the lawsuit.”

According to the W. family’s statement, Ashbury officials reacted to the 2007 incident by trying to “protect themselves, their personal and institutional reputations and their financial interests.”

The lawsuit states that on the morning after the assault, an Ashbury teacher left Boston on the first flight to Ottawa with two of the alleged assailants, as well as the videotape of the assault, without notifying police or border authorities.

“Notwithstanding their knowledge that the assault was reportable as a crime or crimes, the Ashbury defendants took steps to remove [two of the alleged assailants]from the USA along with the evidence,” the lawsuit says.

An Ashbury teacher went on to call J.W.’s home in Ottawa the morning after the incident and allegedly described it as “minor.” Another teacher allegedly urged J.W.’s mother to “consider the feelings” of two of the assailants’ parents before calling police.

But after learning details of the attack from Ashbury’s headmaster, J.W.’s mother called Ottawa police, while his father called Boston police.

U.S. authorities investigated, and two of the alleged perpetrators are facing trial on charges of indecent assault and battery in the United States.

J.W.’s parents are critical of the fact that the school took one month to expel the alleged assailants, saying the delay exposed J.W. and his siblings “to a poisoned climate of blame, humiliation and embarrassment.”

After these and other disagreements over the handling of the incident, J.W.’s parents learned in March, 2008, that Ashbury was delaying acceptance of their children for the following school year.

A series of discussions ensued, and the parents said they were willing to adhere to some of the conditions requested by the college, including releasing school officials from any future action.

However, they refused to sign a document which stated that Ashbury “acted in good faith and in accordance with the standards of the teaching profession” in handling the case. As a result, according to the lawsuit, their two sons and a daughter were forced to leave the school.

The W. family is seeking more than $150,000 in damages, and reimbursement of the nearly $20,000 a year that they paid for the education of each of their children at Ashbury College.

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Ex Ashbury students charged in Boston assault

Indecent assault raps after incident during school trip

The Ottawa Sun

First posted: | Updated:

JON WILLING, Sun Media

Two former Ashbury College schoolboys face charges in connection with a sexual assault investigation launched after a class trip to Boston in November 2007.

The two accused males, ages 18 and 17, were arraigned in Boston courts last week. Each faces one count of indecent assault and battery and one count of assault and battery. The 17-year-old, who can’t be identified, was arraigned in Suffolk County Juvenile Court on Friday. The 18-year-old was arraigned in Suffolk County Superior Court on Thursday.

His next court date is July 29, while the youth is expected back July 30.

The accused are being represented by two highly regarded Boston lawyers. David Apfel is representing the 18-year-old and David Meier is representing the youth.

Apfel said his client has pleaded not guilty to the two charges.

“There was no intent to harm anyone,” Apfel said, noting that the incident “was intended as a prank.”

Apfel said his client wants to resolve the matter in a way that doesn’t cause any additional harm for anyone involved.

“Based on the allegations that have been made it was obviously taken as something that went well beyond a prank. For any harm or pain that was caused the client feels very sorry indeed.”

Meier could not be reached for comment Monday.

A spokeswoman at the Suffolk County district attorney’s office said the accused turned themselves in voluntarily. No bail was imposed on their releases and they were ordered to have no contact with the alleged victim.

The Boston police sexual assault unit began an investigation after the Ashbury class trip to the city, where teachers accompanied students to visit museums and historic sites. Police were investigating a complaint that a student had been assaulted in a hotel room during the trip. Four students were subsequently suspended from the distinguished private school in Rockcliffe Park.

Boston police have not disclosed the details of the investigation and referred all questions to the local district attorney.

Prosecutors believe the alleged victim was in his room at the Midtown Hotel on Nov. 16, 2007 when the two accused entered. According to a case summery provided by the district attorney’s office, the allegations are that the younger accused held the victim while the older accused used a finger to anally penetrate him.

Last week’s arraignments capped a lengthy investigation by police as families back in Ottawa waited for word from the district attorney’s office in Boston.

Allan O’Brien, an Ottawa lawyer representing the alleged victim, said it was a “frustrating time” for his client’s family waiting for a decision by the U.S. authorities.

“It’s fair to say the family is grateful the district attorney was persistent in the investigation in the matter,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien wouldn’t discuss how his client is doing today.

“I’m reluctant at this stage to speak on that topic,” O’Brien said.

Ashbury College headmaster Tam Matthews said Monday he wasn’t aware of the prosecution, noting he has had “no communication on it.”

jo[email protected]

7 Responses to “School head didn’t alert police to sex assault: affidavit” & related articles

  1. Sylvia says:

    For those who wonder what Peter Engelmann, former lead commission counsel for the $60M Cornwall Public Inquiry, is doing these days.

  2. REMOVE this slanderous article NOW.

  3. John MacDonald says:

    Mr. Bird:

    I am trying to understand where your terse comment is coming from regarding the Ashbury College stories posted above.

    Ashbury does not land within the realm of the Toronto District School Board.
    Your name is not mentioned anywhere in the news stories.

    Are you friends with the teachers mentioned? Friend of the headmaster mentioned? Maybe a loyal alumni?

    Whatever your reasoning for “YELLING” at Sylvia to “REMOVE this slanderous article” is, she (Sylvia) has done absolutely nothing wrong except post stories that ran in the Ottawa Sun almost 5 years ago.

    It took very little digging to find your information, your profession, and your other attempt at trying to shut a “blogger” down because you did not like his (Arnie Lemaire’s) comments. Should Sylvia be waiting on 2 Toronto Police detectives to show up at her door?

    Find something else to do on a Sunday morning Mr. Bird. There have been no wrongs done here.

    John MacDonald
    Niagara Falls

  4. John MacDonald says:

    Also Mr. Bird, since you are using the tdsb.on.ca URL. Am I safe to assume that your veiled threat is sanctioned by the Toronto District School Board, or, are you just attempting to throw some clout behind your lightweight attempt at a threat?

    John MacDonald
    Niagara Falls

    • PJ says:

      John, you raise a good point. His feeble attempt in his post to intimidate is laughable and adding his tdsb address just reinforces the ridiculousness. Oh wait, there are a couple of cops outside…should I be worried??

  5. JG says:

    Well said Mr. MacDonald.
    That late “Saturday night”, early Sunday morning “scream” leaves one with many questions about the reason behind it…
    Thanks to the search engines at our disposal we can all form an opinion but it would be interesting to have Mr. Bird’s explanation. Whether it was a conscious and deliberate move or a fleeting moment of induced confusion probably only matters for himself to confront… and for the rest of us to express our understanding.
    He sure came to the right place. We are always ready to listen.
    With his media relations background it should be an easy meeting of the minds. He may want to express his continued concern, caring, empathy …for the victim in this story?
    …as I am writing, I wonder? Was this really from Mr. Bird or is it possible someone else used his E-mail. Sylvia can probably confirm if that is possible??
    Regardless of the outcome, this early morning “bleep” is very “educational” so far.
    jg

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