Sex­ting scan­dal: the school­teacher who se­duced her stu­dents

Ja­clyn McLaren was a pop­u­lar teacher who was known for lav­ish­ing at­ten­tion on the boys in her class. When she started messaging them on so­cial me­dia, the flir­ta­tion turned into a crim­i­nal ob­ses­sion that landed her in prison.

Toronto Life - - Front Page - by Lau­ren McKeon

Ja­clyn Mclaren never quite fit in.

She grew up just out­side Belleville, on a farm that had been in her fam­ily for five gen­er­a­tions. Her fa­ther was a quiet worka­holic, while her mother served as the fam­ily dis­ci­plinar­ian. She was the el­dest of three girls. The mid­dle sis­ter, Katie, was clos­est with their mom, and Tara, the youngest, was their dad’s favourite. Ja­clyn al­ways drifted on the mar­gins. While her sis­ters em­braced farm life, Ja­clyn was less in­ter­ested in do­ing chores in the barn or car­ing for the an­i­mals. In­stead, she fo­cused on school. By the time she en­tered Grade 9, she was an A stu­dent, de­ter­mined to fin­ish high school a year early, get to univer­sity and start a life of her own.

Af­ter high school, McLaren en­rolled at Trent Univer­sity, where she ma­jored in psy­chol­ogy. She’d re­turn home to the farm on week­ends, spend­ing time with her fam­ily and work­ing as a cashier at a nearby truck stop. Dur­ing the week, she would spi­ral out of con­trol, drink­ing heav­ily ev­ery night. De­spite her par­ty­ing, she kept up her stud­ies and grad­u­ated from Trent in 2001, but she had trou­ble find­ing work. Des­per­ate, she moved home and took a job as a server at the lo­cal strip joints: first the Cabaret, then the Go-Go Club, where she was mak­ing as much as $500 a night in tips. She craved the kind of at­ten­tion that the clubs’ pa­trons were only too happy to pro­vide. Around this time, Ja­clyn started a reg­u­lar coke habit. She’d of­ten snort and drink at work, get­ting too high to count out her money at the end of a shift.

McLaren be­gan dat­ing a con­tract labourer named Scott Jones. They mar­ried in 2010 at the fam­ily farm, and she took his name. With her par­ents’ help, they bought a mod­est brick bungalow in nearby Stir­ling. But the mar­riage was trou­bled from the start. Ja­clyn be­lieved Scott was cheat­ing on her, and she al­ways com­plained that they didn’t have enough money. Even so, she tried to buy her hus­band’s at­ten­tion and af­fec­tion with ex­trav­a­gant gifts, like a trip to Florida.

At some point, she de­cided it was time to clean up her act. She quit the Go-Go Club and en­rolled in a bach­e­lor of ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram at Queen’s Univer­sity. In 2011, at age 31, she se­cured a job teach­ing French at Tweed-Hunger­ford, which would later become Tweed Ele­men­tary School. She asked her stu­dents to call her Madame Jones.

as a new teacher,

McLaren had a dif­fi­cult time con­trol­ling her stu­dents. She taught core French in grades 6 through 8, and though she didn’t re­spond to in­ter­view re­quests for this story, for­mer stu­dents say her classes were of­ten chaotic. She rarely fol­lowed the les­son plans she handed out at the be­gin­ning of class. Kids would ask to go to the bath­room and not come back, duck­ing out to Tim Hor­tons or wan­der­ing the hall­ways un­til the bell rang. Some­times, McLaren would catch the tru­ants and send them to the prin­ci­pal’s of­fice, but she didn’t bother to en­sure they ar­rived. Even­tu­ally, she gave up on struc­tured lessons al­to­gether, pass­ing out work­sheets for stu­dents to com­plete in­de­pen­dently. Dur­ing this time, she liked to chat with cer­tain kids, pay­ing spe­cial at­ten­tion to the boys. She’d sit at her desk and lis­ten to mu­sic on a Blue­tooth speaker.

McLaren was pretty and sun-weath­ered, with brown eyes and rosy cheeks that winked into ap­ples when she smiled. The boys reg­u­larly took pho­tos of her, an­gling their phones at her butt or down her shirt when she leaned over. Other times, she took flirty self­ies in front of the class. Soon, the boys were look­ing her up on so­cial me­dia, eas­ily find­ing her Face­book pro­file and In­sta­gram ac­count. McLaren be­came Face­book friends with some of her stu­dents. Many fol­lowed her on In­sta­gram. She’d post pho­tos that showed her sit­ting pertly, strate­gi­cally tilted to show off her cleav­age.

In­stead of block­ing her stu­dents or talk­ing to them about how to use so­cial me­dia ap­pro­pri­ately, she brushed off their in­ces­sant ques­tions in class and on­line, even as they grew more per­sonal and sex­ual. Once, stu­dents asked if she re­ally called her hus­band Boner Jones—a nick­name they’d seen on­line. McLaren laughed, said yes and changed the sub­ject. An­other time, the same boys used their fin­gers to write in the grime on her car: “I wish my boyfriend were as dirty as this.” In class, a stu­dent loaded a sex­u­ally ex­plicit video onto the Smart Board. When McLaren saw, she said, “I’m go­ing to get into so much trou­ble.” They treated her like a class­mate in­stead of a teacher, and she seemed un­able—or un­will­ing—to stop it.

The boys in her class had ini­ti­ated her into their so­cial me­dia cir­cles. I spoke to sev­eral teens for this story, both in Toronto and in Belleville, and ev­ery one of them said they’re on­line al­most con­stantly, ping-pong­ing be­tween Snapchat and In­sta­gram. Snapchat is a par­tic­u­lar favourite, the teens told me, be­cause their par­ents and teach­ers have no idea what it is and rarely mon­i­tor it. Most Snapchat users un­der 25 visit the app in ex­cess of 20 times a day.

Teens bring their phones to school, us­ing them be­fore the bell rings, at lunch, dur­ing class. So­cial me­dia use is so per­va­sive that this past May the Toronto Dis­trict School Board an­nounced a tem­po­rary Snapchat, In­sta­gram and Net­flix ban. Ad­min­is­tra­tors said that the stu­dents’ Wi-Fi use had over­loaded the schools’ ag­ing net­works, and they hoped to have a new Wi-Fi sys­tem in place for the 2017–2018 school year. The kids got around the ban within days, us­ing VPNs. When I asked the teens how they knew to do this, they laughed at me, as if I were ask­ing how they learned to tie their shoes.

So­cial me­dia has cre­ated a hid­den cul­ture where teens can live un­der the radar. The stu­dents I spoke with seemed to think that be­ing asked for nude pho­tos is a nec­es­sary price of be­ing con­nected at all times. Two 14-year-old boys swore that they’d never asked girls for nude pho­tos, but they ad­mit­ted that it’s com­mon for boys in their class to hound girls for them, even if they don’t re­ally ex­pect any to com­ply. For girls, get­ting re­quests for nudes is as nor­mal as post­ing pho­tos with flower crowns or us­ing goofy fil­ters.

As stu­dents get older, the de­mands can es­ca­late. One 17-yearold girl told me she gets asked for nudes on In­sta­gram a few

By fall 2015, McLaren had sent nude pho­tos to at least eight boys, ages 13 to 17. Six were for­mer stu­dents; she met the other two on Tin­der. She later claimed she didn’t know they were un­der­age

times a week, whether it’s from boys at her school or com­plete strangers. Some­times, in­stead of ask­ing, the boys will send her shots of them­selves, either naked or nearly there. While ex­plain­ing this to me, she blushed, re­peat­edly us­ing the phrase “in­ap­pro­pri­ate pho­tos” as I prod­ded her to ex­plain what she meant. “You know,” she told me, “pic­tures of their….” In one case, she had an ac­quain­tance ha­rass her over Snapchat for months. He mes­saged her con­stantly, some­times sim­ply say­ing “Hi” and other times send­ing pic­tures of his gen­i­tals. She said her friends have had sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ences, but that they don’t talk about it be­cause it’s em­bar­rass­ing. “I don’t like it, but it’s more an­noy­ing than scary,” she said.

This any­thing-goes cul­ture has drifted into the class­room, in some ex­treme cases eras­ing the boundaries be­tween stu­dents and teach­ers—all it takes is one late-night ac­cep­tance of a friend re­quest from a kid, or an email that strays into per­sonal ter­ri­tory. Stu­dents who’d never con­sider call­ing a teacher at home won’t think twice about send­ing a Face­book mes­sage or text. To help nav­i­gate the new on-call cli­mate, the On­tario Col­lege of Teach­ers re­leased a pro­fes­sional ad­vi­sory on elec­tronic com­mu­ni­ca­tion and so­cial me­dia. Es­sen­tially, it warns teach­ers never to go down the path at all. Don’t friend. Don’t fol­low. Don’t share. Di­rect any stu­dent in cri­sis to the ap­pro­pri­ate re­source or fam­ily mem­ber. Do it dur­ing school hours and copy a par­ent on cor­re­spon­dence. Don’t say or post or do any­thing you wouldn’t also do in front of your whole class and their par­ents. Ja­clyn McLaren, des­per­ate to be de­sired, broke ev­ery rule.

In 2013, a few grade 8 boys

bor­rowed McLaren’s phone dur­ing class. As one of the boys scrolled through her photo al­bum, he found a pic­ture of her bare breasts and showed two of his friends. Once McLaren dis­cov­ered what had hap­pened, she asked all three boys to stay in for re­cess. She pleaded with them not to tell any­body what they had seen on her phone; she didn’t want to lose her job. The boys agreed, but they had some con­di­tions. At first, it was mostly kid stuff: they told her they’d keep her se­cret if she let them stay in at re­cess and play in the gym. She called them her com­puter helpers so they could be ex­cused from class. They made her buy them pizza.

Other stu­dents were start­ing to no­tice the un­usual in­ti­macy McLaren had cul­ti­vated with a few of the boys in her class. Hazel was one of them. (Hazel is not her real name; I’ve used pseudonyms to protect the iden­ti­ties of the kids in this story.) While the other stu­dents goofed around, Hazel usu­ally did her work­sheets, and yet she was fail­ing McLaren’s class. Once, she clashed with one of the boys in the teacher’s fan club. He had splashed ink on her arm; in re­turn, she’d dipped her hand in red paint and slapped it on his white T-shirt. Her mom, Melissa, re­ceived a call from the prin­ci­pal stat­ing both stu­dents were to blame. But McLaren only pun­ished Hazel, ban­ning her from class for a week and send­ing her to the li­brary in­stead.

In fall 2013, Hazel com­plained to an­other teacher, who ar­ranged a meet­ing with McLaren, Hazel, the prin­ci­pal and the union ste­ward in the school li­brary. Hazel told them that McLaren was friends with stu­dents on so­cial me­dia and that they car­ried on in­ap­pro­pri­ate con­ver­sa­tions in class. It wasn’t that she felt McLaren was pick­ing on her, Hazel said, but rather that she was show­ing ex­treme favouritism to a group of boys. McLaren sat si­lently for most of the meet­ing.

The prin­ci­pal and the union ste­ward later told McLaren to un­friend her stu­dents. They gave her a copy of the On­tario Col­lege of Teach­ers’ pro­fes­sional ad­vi­sory on the use of elec­tronic com­mu­ni­ca­tion and so­cial me­dia. McLaren claimed that she had let a few male stu­dents bor­row her phone to look at an ed­u­ca­tional app. She main­tained that the boys must have in­stalled Snapchat and added them­selves to her Face­book dur­ing that time. She hadn’t no­ticed be­cause, as she later claimed, she has “like 1,000 friends, so….” She deleted the boys on Face­book, but left Snapchat on her phone. “I guess I should have re­moved it,” she later said. “I didn’t re­ally understand it yet.”

Within a few weeks, the boys in­creased their de­mands. They asked her to send nudes over Snapchat. McLaren didn’t know what to do. She thought she’d been help­ing the boys by show­er­ing them with at­ten­tion. When the dy­namic turned sex­ual, she be­came a vic­tim in her own head. She be­lieved that the boys were in con­trol, that she was trapped. And so, in October 2013, she sexted a stu­dent for the first time, send­ing a 15-year-old named Aaron pho­tos of her breasts. In re­turn, he sent her shots of his erect pe­nis. “I did it ’cuz I was stupid,” she later said.

Over the next few months, her phone pinged con­stantly with Snapchats from the boys—so much so that her hus­band de­manded to know if she was cheat­ing. In the spring of 2014, he left her for good. McLaren was dev­as­tated. She re­sumed her heavy drink­ing. By the end of the school year, she was con­sum­ing a full bottle of wine ev­ery night af­ter work.

As she drank, she’d log onto Snapchat and Tin­der, messaging young men. She of­ten ar­ranged to meet them for hookups and usu­ally didn’t bother to check their ages. Her sis­ter Katie ex­pressed con­cern over Ja­clyn’s es­capades, but McLaren was high on the at­ten­tion. Among the boys she met on­line were a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old. She sent one a photo of her breasts and the other a nude Snapchat video of her sim­u­lat­ing a sex act. Some­times she protested and wor­ried she’d lose her job. But she kept hit­ting send.

McLaren also con­tin­ued sex­ting her stu­dents. Fu­elled by al­co­hol and the ache of her dec­i­mated mar­riage, she will­ingly and en­thu­si­as­ti­cally pur­sued the boys. In 2014, she sent two of her teenage black­mail­ers pho­tos of her bare breasts and gen­i­tals. In­sta­gram shots from the school’s grad­u­a­tion show McLaren sand­wiched be­tween two boys, glow­ing. One of them makes an ex­plicit hand sign called the “shocker”—a crude ref­er­ence to sex­ual pen­e­tra­tion. Her cap­tion on In­sta­gram read, “Why must they al­ways do that with their hands?” She ends it with an emoji of a mon­key cov­er­ing its eyes.

In the fall of 2014, she picked up a six-pack of beer and drove two of her for­mer stu­dents, Leo and Joseph—then in Grade 9 at a nearby high school—to the Trans Canada Trail in Tweed. There, shielded by trees, they downed a few, then re­turned to her car, where she kissed and fon­dled both boys. Fi­nally, McLaren took them back to the trail. She per­formed oral sex first on Leo, then Joseph. It was the boys’ first sex­ual en­counter.

She later took Joseph back to the trail and fel­lated him again; he sent her a photo of his pe­nis, which she ea­gerly ac­cepted. She also took Leo out in her car a sec­ond time and per­formed oral sex on him; DNA test­ing later con­firmed the pres­ence of his se­men on her back seat.

Both boys bragged about their en­coun­ters at school. Girls rolled their eyes about the boys’ claims they “got with” the teacher. Hazel told her mother she thought McLaren was “do­ing them”—even if she didn’t quite understand what that in­volved. “I wasn’t even imag­in­ing that what Hazel said could have ever been true,” says her mother, Melissa. “Not for a minute.”

McLaren chose the cool boys—the ones who could give her the val­i­da­tion she craved. She was drawn to kids who were like her: sporty boys who liked hockey and hunt­ing, coun­try boys who went stunt rid­ing on tricked-out ATVs. Their so­cial me­dia is rife with fam­ily and fish­ing pho­tos, pic­tures of their hunt­ing gear, their dogs, their guns. They were shaggy-haired and gawky, mus­cu­lar but coltish— clearly boys, not men.

Her now-for­mer stu­dents passed her pho­tos around, col­lect­ing and trad­ing them like Poké­mon cards. They’d send them to each other and show them off at par­ties. By fall of 2015, she was sex­ting with at least eight teenagers. Six were for­mer stu­dents, and she met the other two on Tin­der. Later, she claimed not to have known they were un­der­age.

McLaren in­vited Aaron, one of the first boys she had mes­saged on Snapchat, to her house just af­ter he turned 18. They had sex that night. These kinds of risky sex­ual en­coun­ters gave McLaren an adrenalin rush, a con­fi­dence boost, a thrill that coke and al­co­hol couldn’t pro­vide. She never thought of the boys as vic­tims or con­sid­ered the harm she might be in­flict­ing—in her mind, the stu­dents were will­ing part­ners who de­sired her, chased her, se­duced her.

In 2015, Mclaren trans­ferred to a po­si­tion at Harry J. Clarke Pub­lic School in Belleville so she could teach French im­mer­sion. She’d curbed her daily drink­ing, but she was still dis­traught over her failed mar­riage. She fre­quently brought up her di­vorce in class and of­ten had night­mares about her breakup. She also con­tin­ued to favour the boys.

At a memo­rial ser­vice for her grand­fa­ther in 2016, McLaren burned her chest while light­ing a fire and missed a week of school. When she re­turned, some of the boys in her Grade 7/8 split asked to see the wounds. She pulled down her shirt to show them. The boys hec­tored her for her so­cial me­dia han­dles, beg­ging her to add them, but she re­fused. When­ever they asked, she just laughed.

On Valen­tine’s Day 2016, McLaren was in­un­dated with texts from the boys. That day, Joseph’s par­ents started notic­ing text mes­sages flash­ing across their son’s phone. They were dis­turbed. Why was their son re­peat­edly tex­ting his for­mer French teacher on Valen­tine’s Day? They grabbed his phone and be­gan scrolling, quickly dis­cov­er­ing the mes­sage chain be­tween their son and McLaren. They fig­ured out that Leo was also in­volved and called his par­ents. Both boys con­fessed everything.

Shaken, the fam­i­lies drove to the Cen­tral Hast­ings OPP de­tach­ment that day and re­ported McLaren. Po­lice ar­rested McLaren at home the next day, seiz­ing her iPhone and a mem­ory stick. Her phone con­tained Tin­der logs, Snapchat con­tacts and scores of sexts. Po­lice laid charges in­volv­ing four of the boys.

Over the fol­low­ing weeks, they met with stu­dents at ele­men­tary and high schools in Tweed and Belleville, us­ing in­for­ma­tion from the boys who’d al­ready come for­ward and McLaren’s phone to iden­tify more pos­si­ble vic­tims. At least one of the boys lied to po­lice when he was first ques­tioned, deny­ing everything. He told the truth later, af­ter po­lice re­turned with more ev­i­dence from other stu­dents who had con­firmed his in­volve­ment.

When Leo and Joseph were in Grade 9, McLaren took them to the Trans Canada Trail, where they drank beer and fooled around. It was both boys’ first sex­ual en­counter

Within a few weeks, four more boys had come for­ward. All told, there were eight known vic­tims. McLaren was charged with mul­ti­ple counts of sex­ual in­ter­fer­ence, ex­ploita­tion of a mi­nor, lur­ing, in­vi­ta­tion to sex­ual touch­ing, mak­ing child pornog­ra­phy, mak­ing sex­u­ally ex­plicit ma­te­rial avail­able to a per­son un­der age 16 and sex­ual as­sault on a per­son un­der age 16—42 counts in all. She made her first court ap­pear­ance on Fe­bru­ary 19, 2016, where she sat in the pris­oner’s box in shack­les and a long black win­ter coat. Her par­ents and sis­ter Katie pledged her $100,000 surety. Once she was re­leased, she hugged her par­ents and sobbed. It was as if she couldn’t fig­ure out what she’d done wrong.

The af­ter­noon of Mclaren’s

court ap­pear­ance, Hazel ar­rived home from school. “Guess what?” Melissa said to her daugh­ter. “Ms. McLaren was ar­rested.” It took a minute for the sig­nif­i­cance to sink in: “Who is Ms. McLaren?” Melissa showed her the news­pa­per. A photo of a woman with dark hair and bunched-up cheeks stared back at her. It was Madame Jones. Re­lief washed over her. Fi­nally, she thought. She’d been right all along.

Across town, other par­ents were hav­ing sim­i­lar con­ver­sa­tions with their chil­dren. One fa­ther, whose kids were McLaren’s stu­dents at Tweed, found out that she fol­lowed his chil­dren on In­sta­gram. One of his kids had saved a screen­shot of the “shocker” photo, think­ing it was weird. Over in Belleville, a woman I’ll call Karen, whose daugh­ter, Ri­ley, had McLaren for Grade 7 French, cried as she told her daugh­ter what had hap­pened. Karen was hor­ri­fied at the thought of McLaren walk­ing the same halls at Harry J. Clarke as her daugh­ter and son.

In the days af­ter McLaren’s ar­rest, staff at Harry J. Clarke brought in coun­sel­lors for any stu­dent who wanted to talk about what had hap­pened. Ri­ley was one of the few kids who went. She had trusted McLaren and con­sid­ered her a friend. She was the cool teacher. Just like she had at Tweed Ele­men­tary, McLaren of­ten aban­doned her les­son plans at Harry J. Clarke. When the weather was nice, she’d take her class out­side, where they’d all sit and chat. She was al­ways laugh­ing and jok­ing. Ri­ley felt be­trayed and con­fused when the news broke. Teach­ers were sup­posed to be safe.

She wanted to know more: how it hap­pened, why it hap­pened, whether the other teach­ers knew or sus­pected. But teach­ers were ad­vised to keep quiet about the charges. In mid-March 2016, the Hast­ings and Prince Ed­ward Dis­trict School Board is­sued a de­tailed state­ment, called “In­for­ma­tion to sup­port school com­mu­ni­ties dur­ing po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions or trau­matic sit­u­a­tions.” While it made no di­rect ref­er­ence to McLaren, it pro­vided tips for re­spond­ing to stu­dents. Teach­ers shouldn’t ini­ti­ate con­ver­sa­tions with stu­dents. If stu­dents brought up the in­ves­ti­ga­tion in class, teach­ers should val­i­date their emo­tions and re­di­rect the con­ver­sa­tion. “If par­ents are ask­ing about pre­ven­tion ed­u­ca­tion for their chil­dren,” stated the ad­vi­sory, “re­as­sure them that the Re­vised Health and Phys­i­cal Ed­u­ca­tion Cur­ricu­lum fo­cuses on build­ing skills that are de­vel­op­men­tally ap­pro­pri­ate.”

For some par­ents, this wasn’t enough. Ri­ley’s mother told me that she in­ter­preted the teach­ers’ si­lence at Harry J. Clarke as a de­ci­sion to stand by McLaren. Hazel’s mom was fu­ri­ous that her daugh­ter had brought this up two years ear­lier—and the school had done noth­ing. Her youngest son, a Grade 5 stu­dent at Tweed, be­came afraid of at­tend­ing school. He faked headaches, de­lib­er­ately vom­ited, made his nose bleed. He told his mom that he was scared a teacher would snatch him.

McLaren didn’t seem to com­pre­hend the dam­age she’d done. Most of her fam­ily ac­cepted her ver­sion of events: that the boys had black­mailed her, and she’d sim­ply made a se­ries of bad choices. While they waited on ev­i­dence dis­clo­sure, McLaren was un­der house ar­rest, forced to stay at her par­ents’ house or Katie’s place down the street, and not go any­where ex­cept for per­sonal train­ing ses­sions, med­i­cal ap­point­ments and psy­chi­atric as­sess­ments. When Katie was mar­ried in the fall of 2016, Ja­clyn was per­mit­ted to at­tend and served as a brides­maid.

A few months later, as the dig­i­tal ev­i­dence against McLaren mounted, the court agreed to amal­ga­mate her 42 original charges into seven that sum­ma­rized her crimes. She pleaded guilty in March 2017. Her lawyer likely be­lieved that if she spared her vic­tims from hav­ing to tes­tify at trial, a judge might look more favourably on her. Still, she squab­bled over some of the dates of her of­fences, try­ing to con­vince the Crown that they took place later, when the boys were older.

Pri­vately, McLaren vented to her psy­chi­a­trist that the lo­cal me­dia had been hor­ri­ble to her and that noth­ing printed in the pa­pers had been true. Her sis­ter Tara be­lieved she was too trust­ing and com­pas­sion­ate; Katie wor­ried that Ja­clyn wouldn’t be able to han­dle prison. Two days af­ter the guilty plea, Katie posted on Face­book: “Have you ever felt so small, in a world this big? Don’t throw stones when you live in a glass house. Bring people up, don’t try to drag them down.” Dozens

Joseph’s par­ents started notic­ing text mes­sages flash­ing across their son’s phone. They were dis­turbed. Why was their son re­peat­edly tex­ting his for­mer French teacher on Valen­tine’s Day?

of com­menters sent heart emo­jis, telling her and her fam­ily to keep their chins up and ig­nore the haters. They were a lovely, beau­ti­ful fam­ily. They would get through this. People made mis­takes all the time.

While male abusers are uni­ver­sally con­demned as preda­tory, in­ci­dents in­volv­ing fe­male abusers are of­ten treated as con­sen­sual. Many people in the com­mu­nity char­ac­ter­ized the boys not as vic­tims but as teenage horn­dogs who’d in­sti­gated the af­fairs. Dur­ing McLaren’s in­ter­view for the court’s pre­sen­tenc­ing re­port, the Crown rec­om­mended that she re­ceive coun­selling as a sex of­fender. “Is that what I am then?” she asked. “I don’t know.” She trailed off. “I just made mis­takes.”

When dis­cussing that first sex­ual en­counter with Leo and Joseph on the Trans Canada Trail, she said, “It didn’t stop, and I guess I didn’t say no.” For most of the in­ter­view, she didn’t ac­knowl­edge that she’d done her stu­dents any harm. She in­sisted that she cared about ev­ery stu­dent she’d ever had. “I don’t want to have messed them up, but I don’t know if it will af­fect them long-term,” she said.

The reper­cus­sions had al­ready started. At school, most stu­dents in their grades knew who the vic­tims were, or thought they did. The boys and their sib­lings were pestered for in­for­ma­tion. In a vic­tim im­pact state­ment to the court, one boy’s mother wrote that her child had become more iso­lated from his fam­ily. He was en­gag­ing in risky be­hav­iour, in­clud­ing drink­ing and smok­ing. Once word got out that he was “one of those boys,” as his mother put it, he also be­gan to get in trou­ble at school.

An­other mom told the court that since the first summer af­ter McLaren sent her son nudes, his be­hav­iour had changed: he lost in­ter­est in sports and school, he was moody, he was de­fi­ant. Sud­denly they knew why. Af­ter word got out that he was in­volved in the case, he started get­ting sus­pended on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. His par­ents told the court they of­ten had no idea where he was, and that he wouldn’t speak to them—about what had hap­pened or any­thing else. She thought about it ev­ery day. What else could she have done? How would he treat women in the fu­ture? And why hadn’t one per­son no­ticed the bizarre re­la­tion­ship be­tween her son and Ja­clyn McLaren?

On may 19, 2017,

shortly be­fore 9:30 a.m., McLaren re­turned to Belleville’s Quinte Court­house for her sen­tenc­ing. Her fam­ily— in­clud­ing her par­ents, her sis­ter Katie, her brother-in-law, and sev­eral aunts and un­cles— took up two rows of benches in the small court­room. Ja­clyn and her mother both wore pink. Her case was not the first of the morn­ing, so she sat and waited, her round face set in heavy makeup, as Jus­tice Stephen Hunter moved through more triv­ial mat­ters. McLaren ap­peared calm, tak­ing swigs from a blue plas­tic wa­ter bottle and whis­per­ing to her sis­ter. At her feet, a large black purse bulged open like a mouth. She’d filled it with doc­u­ments, and a giant zip-lock bag full of cos­met­ics, med­i­ca­tion and other per­sonal items. It was al­most as if she didn’t re­al­ize she was on her way to prison.

Shortly af­ter, Ri­ley and her mother, Karen, showed up, along with one of Ri­ley’s friends, a Grade 7 stu­dent who’d had McLaren as a teacher the pre­vi­ous year. Karen had hoped see­ing McLaren sen­tenced would help bring clo­sure to her and her daugh­ter. At one point, af­ter the pro­ceed­ings had started and McLaren sat at the defence ta­ble, she turned around and gave them a toothy grin. Karen was dis­gusted. Did McLaren think they were there to sup­port her?

Jus­tice Hunter sen­tenced McLaren to two years in fed­eral prison, to be served at the Grand Val­ley In­sti­tu­tion for Women in Kitch­ener. As the bailiff moved to hand­cuff McLaren, she took one last swig from her wa­ter bottle and ap­plied some lip gloss. For a brief mo­ment she seemed con­fused, grab­bing her purse, mov­ing like a woman who was go­ing to the store or to work. An­other bailiff handed her a plas­tic tray so she could empty the bag’s con­tents. She stuck out her arms, one wrist wrapped in a coiled sil­ver bracelet. It would have to go. Her ear­rings, too.

She re­mained dry-eyed as the hand­cuffs fi­nally clicked on, star­ing ahead, the bear­ing of some­one who was some­where else, or at least pre­tend­ing to be. Her mom cried out: “I love you, Jackie!” Her daugh­ter’s head turned briefly. “Bye.” For­ward again. “I love you, too.” ∫

McLaren is shown here with two Grade 8 boys, one of whom is mak­ing a sex­u­ally ex­plicit hand ges­ture called the “shocker”

McLaren trans­ferred to Harry J. Clarke Pub­lic School in Belleville in 2015. She con­tin­ued her sex­ual re­la­tions with ex-stu­dents at her for­mer school

McLaren, shown here with her lawyer, Pi­eter Kort, pleaded guilty to seven charges, in­clud­ing sex­ual in­ter­fer­ence and ex­ploita­tion. She was sen­tenced to two years in fed­eral prison

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