Teacher's pet: Boy, 13
By ROB GRANATSTEIN Toronto Sun
February 18, 2000
Now she's fighting ban for writing letters to teen
"I will definitely not sleep on the way to Ottawa, or the Ottawa police might have to dust me for prints!!!! You know I trust you to keep your hands where they belong!" "I don't think sibling swapping is a good idea. I am sure that you wouldn't want me with (your brother), so excuse me if I won't be introducing you to my sister any time soon. Have some loyalty!!! ... My sister is back in Saskatoon now and, anyway, she is too young for you! (haha) (She's 26)."
BARRIE -- The letters -- 64 in all -- are thick with sexual innuendo. She calls him "hottie" and signs her letters "Love, your woman." She draws smiley faces and hearts on the notes.
He was infatuated, a teenage boy's heart and mind working overtime on the possibilities. It was like two barely pubescent teens experimenting their way through a secret adolescent relationship.
Their courtship included hugging and dancing. Buying each other pendants, chains and chocolates. They exchanged notes. They discussed what she would wear -- a dress or not, what type of bathing suit. They hung out together during lunch and talked about the Raptors and MuchMusic.
They looked forward to -- he even fantasized about -- the big school trip to Ottawa scheduled for May of that year.
But, there was one catch.
The boy is 13. The girl is 27 -- and a teacher at his school.
She is Laura Glen Sclater. In January 1998, the attractive brunette with a pretty smile and baby face returned to teach Grade 7 and 8 at Goodfellow Public School in Alcona Beach, south of Barrie, following maternity leave. Her husband, Stephen, also teaches at Goodfellow.
By April 1998, after a three-month non-sexual relationship with the boy, Sclater was removed from the school. After a full investigation, the Ontario College of Teachers' decided to suspend her for an indefinite period of time.
On Monday, Sclater goes to Osgoode Hall to appeal that suspension in divisional court.
She wants another chance to teach little boys and girls.
Sclater's relationship with Z (the boy's name has been removed to protect his identity) may never have been uncovered had his mom not stumbled across the boy writing a letter to the teacher in April 1998.
Then she found Sclater's notes to her son.
"There were letters everywhere," she said. Hand-written notes, a letter on a huge cut-out heart, Easter cards, e-mails from school computers. The first dated letter is February 1998.
"Z, you are a big stud!"
"I will tell the girls to keep their hands off my property or I will use my martial arts on them!"
Sclater was using a girl in her class, one of Z's friends, as a courier to send notes to the boy.
Z's mom was horrified. In the newspapers at the time she was reading about Mary Kay LeTourneau, a teacher in Seattle who had sex with a 13-year-old boy and gave birth to his child. That affair started with an exchange of letters.
"I thought, 'Oh, my God, here we go,' " she said. "There are so many similarities."
When the Mary Kay LeTourneau TV movie aired this month, she tried to watch, but couldn't.
Her son had an infatuation of his own and she had no idea how far his relationship had progressed. Z stopped speaking to his mom as soon as she interrupted his relationship with the teacher. Details were impossible to obtain.
"These letters are a mother's worst nightmare," she said.
"She took a young boy and took away his innocence. She became his confidante instead of me and his brother. She exposed him to things he wasn't ready to hear or learn or understand. He was just a little boy.
"I think she made my son a prisoner of love," Z's mom said this week, as she again looked over the letters sent to her son by Sclater. "She manipulated his emotions and good judgment.
"If I hadn't found those letters ... I'm terrified to think what would've happened on that school trip to Ottawa," she said.
"Tell your mom and dad not to worry, everything is under control and you and your brother will have a great birthday (in Ottawa)!"
The letters also led Z's mom to believe the relationship Sclater had with her son was not the first time she'd picked a student to be her "honey."
"There can never be another honey for me. 'J' last year and you this year?! It doesn't get any better."
"Thanks for the SUPERSWEET HEART note. You are the best! P.S. I miss 'J', but I miss you more."
After finding the 64 pieces of correspondence from Sclater to her son and two of his letters to her, the mother decided to act.
She pulled the boy and his twin brother out of school April 21, 1998. On April 22, she reported what she'd found to the Children's Aid Society.
The CAS started an investigation. Sclater was suspended from her teaching duties by the Simcoe County Board of Education and the Ontario College of Teachers began a full probe. The South Simcoe police looked at the case, but decided not to file charges.
"I felt if it was a male teacher and a girl, they would've come out and put the teacher in jail," Z's mom said. "I think my son's rights were violated because he is a male."
The reports from the CAS and psychologists were damning.
The CAS placed Sclater's name on the Provincial Child Abuse Register. It said there were several examples of sexual exploitation and recommended she not be allowed to have any direct duties involving children until she underwent an appropriate assessment so the CAS could re-examine the risk she posed to students, according to court documents.
Dr. Hy Bloom, a psychologist hired by Sclater's attorneys, said the teacher's conduct flowed from "immature personality traits ... and the degree to which she appears under-informed about normal psycho-sexual development in boys."
Dr. Bloom also states: "I cannot conclude that the boy was either sexually exploited or abused."
Dr. Nathan Pollock, another psychologist hired by Sclater's legal team, called her behaviour "poorjudgment attributable to immaturity, egocentricity and a lack of psychological sophistication."
The Ontario college, the self-governing body of teachers, suspended her teaching certificate and called a fitness-to-practice hearing. That committee determines matters related to the alleged incapacity of teachers. Its hearings are closed to the public.
Dr. Peter Collins, of the Clarke Institute, examined the letters on behalf of the College.
He concluded Sclater's communication with her student contained sexual innuendo and presented her as a romantic and sexual figure to her student, according to court documents.
He testified the nature of the communication abused Sclater's authority as a teacher and constituted a serious professional boundary violation.
The twins gave full statements to the College's investigator.
Court documents show Z "had the impression that she favoured him over other students in terms of behavioural and social conduct at the school. He was teased about the relationship by his friends and had several disagreements with his brother about it."
"I will walk with you at lunch."
"We will sit on the bus together, if you want. Don't worry."
On Sept. 9, 1999, after hearing all the evidence, the fitness-to-practice committee received a joint resolution settlement proposal from the college and Sclater's lawyers.
It recommended her certificate be returned, she have at least 15 therapy and counselling sessions, her future employer be notified of the letters and be forced to monitor her, she could only teach Grade 6 and younger students, she would not be allowed to do any note-writing, she must be reassessed by Dr. Bloom and, after 18 months, all conditions would be removed.
The next day, the committee panel's chairman said the matter never should have been taken to the fitness-to-practice committee, it should have been heard by the discipline committee.
On Oct. 21, 1999, the committee made its final order on the case anyway.
It rejected the joint submission made a month earlier and suspended Sclater's certificate for an indeterminate period of time. She also had to meet all the other criteria of the joint submission, including submitting to no fewer than 20 counselling sessions.
The committee said in its decision that Sclater's suspension was "the least restrictive and intrusive measures available which accorded with public safety and the interests of (Sclater's) future students."
The committee also concluded it wasn't convinced "Sclater has fully recognized the seriousness of her boundary violations and their effect or their potential effect on students. The committee is further concerned about her ability to perform the duties as a teacher and act in a position of trust."
Sclater refused to comment on the case when reached by The Toronto Sun.
Her lawyers are appealing on the grounds the committee erred by: Reaching a decision for which there was no, or insufficient, evidence; imposing conditions that violate Sclater's rights under Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom; acting outside its jurisdiction by imposing punitive rather than remedial measures.
And Z's mom said she's upset Sclater's appealing the decision suspending her licence.
"I want her to be accountable," she said.
"I just don't want people like her teaching our kids."
"Love Mrs. Sclater (for another three months) then you can call me 'Laura' all you want!!!!!!!"
From the next page
But her lawyers will use evaluations from psychologist Dr. Edward Blackstock to show she never should have been teaching Grade 7 or 8 students anyway. Sclater was trained to teach up to Grade 6.
"Mrs. Sclater was under-prepared and much less than optimally supported for the very complex demands of teaching adolescents," he wrote. "Her knowledge of psychological constructs and the psychology of adolescents is, at best, minimal.
"There is absolutely no evidence to support the interpretation that her intent was to exploit, harm or abuse her students in any way," Blackstock wrote.
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This Page was created on 2nd July, 2000
Last updated on 12th January, 2001