Petrolia elementary school teacher convicted of sexual exploitation

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A Lambton County elementary school teacher has been convicted of sexual exploitation after a brief secret relationship with a high school student.

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A Lambton County elementary school teacher has been convicted of sexual exploitation after a brief secret relationship with a high school student.

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While Gillian Boere, a teacher at Hillcrest Public School in Petrolia, pleaded not guilty to the charge, Judge Deborah Austin returned a guilty verdict Friday in a virtual courtroom in Sarnia following a recent trial.

The woman’s reaction was not visible as she had her camera turned off throughout the lengthy judgment. She won’t be sentenced for at least two months because the judge has ordered a pre-sentence report.

The court heard that Boere and the boy had a secret sexual relationship a few summers ago when he was 16 and she was 34 – a “significant” age disparity, Austin noted. The youngster, whose identity is protected by a court-ordered publication ban, consented and was a willing participant but, given his age, that was not an issue, the judge said.

The key was whether Boere was in a position of trust, power or authority at the time, which would render the consent invalid.

Even though she wasn’t his teacher — the victim wasn’t even enrolled in the same school board — Austin said Boere still took on a teaching role at a joint activity that brought them together that summer. . This one-on-one interaction became the “gateway” to a sexual relationship.

“I find Ms Boere had a duty, was in a position of trust towards (him),” Austin said. “It is crucial, in my view, that in these circumstances, teachers do not violate or abuse this position to engage in an intimate or personal sexual relationship with students aged 16-18.”

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The defense had argued that there was no relationship of trust as she had never taught the teenager despite the sex taking place outside of school during the summer months.

There were four sexual encounters in total: two at her home, one in her parked SUV, and one at the boy’s while his family was away. The victim appeared nervous during his testimony, the judge recalled, but he described the four incidents with “clarity, consistency and precision” while being questioned by the two lawyers.

The couple knew each other before, but the inappropriate aspect of their relationship started after Boere got emotional about her failed marriage and the boy offered to comfort her with a hug. By the end of the day, they had shared a ‘long’ kiss, and the next day a sexual act occurred.

Boere was “clear” with the court that there had been no prior sexual contact, Austin said.

The boy’s mother and another teacher Boere confided in about the secret relationship also testified at trial. Boere admitted to her former friend at the end of the summer that she had seen a high school student and was aware that she had to “cover up” because of her role as a teacher.

This admission and the element of secrecy it encouraged were also factors in Austin’s decision, as was the emotional and mental toll he took on the boy as he balanced having a secret relationship with a woman twice his age while being a sounding board for his staff. problems.

“It became stressful and overwhelming for him,” Austin said. “In my view, this can be seen as recognition of an imbalance.”

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At one point, he wrote to her via social media, “I’m a 16 year old kid and I can’t bring a 30 year old woman home.”

The Lambton Kent District School Board posted a memo on its website on Friday notifying families of the sentencing.

“I wanted to let you know because the (school board) values ​​open and transparent dialogue with its students, families and the community,” Director of Education John Howitt said in the statement. “Rest assured that the (board) takes all allegations of professional misconduct seriously and is committed to providing safe and caring learning environments for its students.”

A school board spokesperson said it could not say how long Boere was employed or which schools she worked at due to confidentiality concerns. The statement says she has not been to school since the allegations were made.

A spokesperson for the Ontario College of Teachers said Friday it was aware of the criminal charges and was monitoring the matter.

“The fact of the member’s conviction does not change the member’s standing with the college since the criminal process and the college process are separate processes,” Gabrielle Barkany said via email.

Barkany noted on September 6, 2020, Boere “agreed not to seek or engage in employment requiring a Certificate of Qualification and Registration until the college adjudicates the complaint against her.”

The criminal case has been adjourned until March 25, when lawyers will choose a future sentencing date. A second charge of sexual assault had previously been dropped.

A Sarnia high school teacher is also awaiting a conviction for sexual exploitation and sexual assault.

[email protected]

@ObserverTerry

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