Globe and Mail

Teacher guilty of misconduct

Behaviour was unprofessional, but didn't hurt Grade 8 boy she met secretly, panel says

KRISTA FOSS
The Globe and Mail
Friday, March 2, 2001

A supply teacher at the centre of a romance scandal did not abuse the Grade 8 boy with whom she met secretly and exchanged sexually charged notes but she is guilty of professional misconduct, a disciplinary panel says.

Annie Mary Markson, 33, a teacher described as gregarious and genteel, sat stone-faced as her lawyer, William Markle, told the Ontario College of Teachers disciplinary panel yesterday she has agreed not to teach until a mid-May penalty hearing decides the fate of her career.

The young, blond-haired woman, who Mr. Markle said comes from a close, supportive family that includes two brothers, a sister and father who are lawyers and an identical twin sister who is a teacher, could lose her teaching licence and pay as much as $38,000 in fines and court costs.

Mr. Markle said yesterday that his client made "errors in judgment, foolish choices" but it would be "too harsh" to take away her licence.

But Thomas Forbes, the college's lawyer, insisted yesterday to reporters that Miss Markson should "absolutely, unequivocally" lose her licence to teach.

The disciplinary hearing has attracted a daily phalanx of TV cameras and microphone-wielding reporters owing in part to the visual evidence available -- notes, photographs, e-mails -- in which Miss Markson described the boy as "sexy" and "hot," and in which the boy professed his love and sexual desire for her.

Yesterday, Mr. Markle speculated the media interest was partly due to the gender of his client and the unproven speculation of a sexual relationship between the teacher and the boy, who is now 17.

If Miss Markson is stripped of her licence, she will be the third female teacher to lose the right to teach in the province because of sexual impropriety allegations since the college began disciplinary hearings in 1998 -- 23 male teachers have lost their licences because of sexual misconduct with students.

"There are other cases I have worked on much more serious than this that never got this attention," Mr. Markle said yesterday.

But Mr. Forbes contended earlier in the hearing that the evidence suggests Miss Markson was "grooming" the boy for an intimate relationship. The two met while she was working as a supply teacher at John XXII Catholic School in Unionville, Ont., north of Toronto, in the 1997-98 school year.

After the school year ended, Miss Markson met secretly five times with the teenager in the summer of 1998, even though the boy's mother had warned the young teacher of her son's crush and of her concern about his "galloping hormones."

"He wasn't in any way affected by the relationship adversely," Mr. Markle insisted yesterday.

Mr. Markle said his client's family (Miss Markson's mother, a brother and younger sister were seen regularly at the hearing) have found the media attention embarrassing. His normally outgoing client has become quiet and closed as a result of the attention.

"I think at this stage she is very remorseful," he said.

At the May hearing to decide her penalty, Mr. Markle will bring forward witnesses and documents, including performance appraisals of her teaching, to show that there is a "good side to this individual."

He thinks the college should consider suspending Miss Markson or imposing a variety of conditions on her if she continues to teach.

A seven-month investigation by York Region police -- which was initiated by the boy's parents -- resulted in no charges being laid in 1999.

Miss Markson was dropped from the York Catholic District School Board's roster of supply teachers when the boy's parents complained about her in 1998.

A spokesman for the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association said yesterday that the union may pay some or all of Miss Markson's legal costs for the hearing.

Copyright 2001 Globe Interactive, a division of Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc.