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February 13, 2001

Female teacher stripped of certificate over sexual assault

Woman had sex with boy, 12, in special ed class in 1977

Moira MacDonald
National Post

A female teacher from the Halton region has been stripped of her right to teach in Ontario and fined $2,000 for sexually assaulting a pupil 24 years ago.

Heidi Franziska Coleman (also known as Hedwig Franziska Coleman) fondled the boy, then 12, in class and had sex with him in a car.

The victim, now 36, went to police four years ago when his oldest son was approaching the age he was when he was abused.

The trauma from the abuse has led to difficulties in dealing with authority and carrying on healthy relationships with women, said the victim, who is divorced. He has been on disability leave for four years from his job as an auto assembly-line worker because of psychological problems, has been under psychiatric treatment and is so nervous about schools that he has not set foot in one since his youngest of two sons, now nine, was in kindergarten.

"I know when people look at my case, it really isn't taken [as] seriously as it should be," the man wrote in a victim impact statement. "People think men should just brush things like this off, the truth is you can't, I wish I could."

After the victim went to Halton Regional Police with his complaints, Ms. Coleman, of Georgetown pleaded guilty in October, 1998, to gross indecency and was given an 18-month conditional sentence to be served in the community followed by 18 months probation and ordered to do 100 hours of community service.

Yesterday, Ontario's regulatory body for teachers, the College of Teachers, revoked Ms. Coleman's teaching certificate after finding her guilty of professional misconduct.

It is the first time the college has stripped a female teacher of her right to teach in the province and the third time it has imposed a fine in a misconduct case since the organization's 1997 inception.

"This is a breach of trust of the most serious kind," David Leonard, the college's lawyer told the three-member disciplinary panel. "It involves serious interaction of a sexual nature with a boy of 12 years old at a very vulnerable time."

The panel heard Ms. Coleman was a regular supply teacher in a special education class at a Campbellville elementary school in October, 1976, when she began sexually abusing the boy.

The abuse occurred over a two-year period. The victim testified that during class Ms. Coleman, then 28, would fondle his penis and encourage him to fondle her vagina and breasts. The mutual fondling would continue when the teacher asked the boy to stay in the classroom during recess.

In 1977, Ms. Coleman offered to drive the victim home, he testified. Although he "kept making excuses" why he shouldn't accept the ride, he relented. Ms. Coleman drove down a series of back streets, finally stopping the car and, after the two had fondled each other, they had sex.

Ms. Coleman did not attend yesterday's hearing or send a lawyer. In a letter to the college's investigator she disputed the victim's assertion she had instigated the sexual contact, but agreed she had sex with the student.

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