Globe and Mail

Teacher acquitted on sex charges

Admitted affair with teen student

JILL MAHONEY
The Globe and Mail
Thursday, December 14, 2000

ST. PAUL, ALTA. -- They were, in many ways, a typical young couple in love. They went to the movies, read poetry and took road trips.

But their relationship was far from ordinary in one important respect: she was a 25-year-old elementary school teacher, and he was a 17-year-old Grade 11 student at the same school.

The woman, Jocelyn Jaster, was found not guilty by a jury yesterday on a charge of sexual exploitation of a minor. As the verdict was announced, after just 45 minutes of deliberations, tears began streaming down her face.

"It's over, it's over," a still-emotional Ms. Jaster said outside court after her two-day trial. "It's just been incredibly devastating, and I'm just trying to put my life back together now."

The affair -- she was married at the time -- cost Ms. Jaster her husband, her job and her family, although she has reconciled with her parents. She also had a miscarriage after becoming pregnant by the young man.

The court heard that she and the teenager, who cannot be named, were together for four months, starting in June of 1998 and ending in September.

They met at a school track meet, and she passed him a note asking if he'd like to go out with her. A week later, they kissed in her classroom in their tiny northeastern Alberta town. Soon, they were having sex in her car and her home. They read books together at Chapters, watched Titanic and listened to music. They took trips to Saskatoon, Banff and Edmonton.

In September, she discovered she was pregnant with the youth's baby and was elated. But the relationship began to fall apart.

The principal found out what was going on and confronted her; both she and the youth denied their affair. She went on stress leave and eventually lost her teaching licence.

After a police investigation, Ms. Jaster was charged with sexual exploitation. Had she been found guilty, she could have been sentenced to five years in prison.

The teen initially told police the relationship was "great," but testified this week that it was "horrible." He painted a picture of implicit control, saying: "She was the teacher and I was the student."

The teen is also suing Ms. Jaster, the principal and the school board for $150,000.

With both the teacher and the student acknowledging the sexual relationship, the criminal case came down to one issue: Was Ms. Jaster in a position of trust and authority over the young man?

Crown prosecutor Neil Wiberg said the answer was an obvious yes. The school had just 110 students in 12 grades, grouped together and taught by nine teachers. Ms. Jaster could issue detentions and report infractions by any student.

Defence lawyer Bob Aloneissi argued that Ms. Jaster exerted no control over the teen, saying she was never his teacher and that she, as a petite elementary teacher, may have felt threatened by a senior student. He stressed that the case had nothing to do with sending a message about teachers who date their students.

He told the court that the liaison was no different from any other relationship. "It was love at the time."

Mr. Aloneissi also reminded the jury of the teen's civil lawsuit, pointing out that "he has financial motive," and took pains to point out inconsistencies between his statements to police and his testimony, calling him a liar.

Copyright © 2000 Globe Interactive