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.
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.