Teacher in tears

Teacher in tears as col­league tells of im­pact of mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions


Ash­bury’s Alyssa Novick breaks down as col­league tells how al­le­ga­tions have af­fected her life,

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 other stu­dents while on the trip.

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

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

Chris Young for ot­tawa Cit­i­zen

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 among pupils that oc­curred five years ago dur­ing a school trip to Bos­ton.


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