Hundreds of teachers preyed on students across Canada, study finds

Province blasted for lack of transparency on misconduct

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An extensive, Canada-wide study of child sexual abuse in schools has found at least 252 current or former K-12 personnel committed, or were accused of committing, offences against children between 2017 and 2021.

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An extensive, Canada-wide study of child sexual abuse in schools has found at least 252 current or former K-12 personnel committed, or were accused of committing, offences against children between 2017 and 2021.

The Winnipeg-based Canadian Centre for Child Protection, which authored the report, released Wednesday, is specifically critical of how Manitoba handles cases of teacher misconduct.

“We are one of the provinces with the least amount of transparency and public accountability around any sort of disciplinary decisions that are being made for teachers,” said Noni Classen, centre director of education. “Even criminal decisions, those typically come out through the media.”

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Noni Classen, with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, weighed in on the lack of transparency with teacher misconduct.

The report does not break the data down by province, but it highlights the case of Kelsey McKay, a Winnipeg phys-ed teacher and high school football coach who faces 30 charges relating to sexual assault and exploitation involving former football players. His case is before the courts and he is presumed innocent.

The report notes parents, teachers and students spoke out to media about McKay’s alleged pattern of problematic behaviour, with some reporting concerns to school officials.

“Although complaints eventually led to a formal intervention with the accused teacher, the number of allegations that have surfaced suggests there were multiple failures in the systems meant to keep kids safe,” the report states.

The report makes four key recommendations for provinces and territories: create an independent oversight body that investigates and adjudicates cases of teacher misconduct; make cases of teacher discipline public; mandate child sexual abuse prevention and awareness training at the school level; and provide trauma-informed support for victims.

Report on sexual abuse in schools

Manitoba’s government would not say if it plans to implement any of the four recommendations, noting the report was still under embargo Tuesday.

For months, the Free Press has been investigating teacher misconduct in Manitoba, including how there is no centralized tracking system of cases and how investigations may take place at different levels (school, school board, teachers union or Department of Education).

Education and child safety advocates, including the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, have called on the province to create an independent body to handle misconduct cases. The province has said it is looking into stronger teacher regulation.

Speaking Tuesday to the Free Press, Anne-Marie Robinson, an Ottawa-based member of the newly-formed Stop Educator Child Exploitation, who is herself a survivor of child sexual abuse by a teacher, said she was shocked to learn abuse cases are still handled behind closed doors in Canadian schools.

“It feels like it’s a secret,” she said. “It feels ignored and really misunderstood.”

Her organization released a report on child abuse in schools alongside the centre’s study Wednesday. Its report, too, calls for greater transparency and highlights how no one tracks cases of teacher abuse across Canada.

“There is no data on the frequency of teacher-on-student abuse. There is no national systematic collection of data in Canada. There is no national database that lists teachers fired or disciplined,” the report reads.

When no one tracks an issue, no one knows the extent of the problem, Robinson said — nor if things are getting better or worse. “People should be really upset by that.”

Robinson hopes governments start looking at the issues through a “child protection” lens rather than “teacher discipline,” with the ultimate goal of preventing other children from enduring what she went through.

“We just want the problem fixed — and it’s fixable,” she said.

The Canadian Centre for Child Protection report notes Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and New Brunswick all make teacher discipline cases public; the other provinces do not.

The centre relied on searches of disciplinary records, media sources, and criminal case law to determine 252 school personnel — including teachers, coaches, support staff, custodians, bus drivers and others — were convicted of or accused of sexual offences in recent years.

The victims included at least 548 children, the report states.

Another 38 current or former school personnel were criminally charged for standalone child pornography offences, according to the report.

Other key findings in the report include: the role of sports coach being the most common “secondary role” for school personnel in question (where a second role was identified); and Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook being the platforms used to victimize students.

katrina.clarke@freepress.mb.ca

Katrina Clarke

Katrina Clarke
Reporter

Katrina Clarke is an investigative reporter with the Winnipeg Free Press.

History

Updated on Wednesday, November 2, 2022 8:46 AM CDT: Updates article with report pdf (post-embargo)

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