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March 2, 2001

Teacher guilty of professional misconduct

Penalty to be decided: 14-year-old boy wasn't sexually abused, panel says

Moira MacDonald
National Post

Carlo Allegri, National Post
Teacher Annie Mary Markson is remorseful and very upset, her lawyer said yesterday.

TORONTO - A 33-year-old supply teacher has been found guilty of professional misconduct after admitting she was wrong to send suggestive messages and meet outside of school with a 14-year-old student.

But Annie Mary Markson did not sexually or emotionally abuse the boy, a three-member disciplinary panel at the Ontario College of Teachers ruled yesterday.

The youth, who is now 17, cannot be named.

The decision was as good as Ms. Markson expected, said Bill Markle, her lawyer. Her chief intention was to defend herself against any allegation she had sex with the boy, which was not borne out by the evidence, he said.

"She's remorseful and very upset about this," Mr. Markle said after the ruling. "She realizes she made some mistakes."

Ms. Markson was a supply teacher at John XXIII Catholic School in Markham, a Toronto suburb, at the time of the incident.

Tom Forbes, the lawyer for the college, said the decision is "a recognition that [a boundary between teacher and student] exists and ought to be followed. And if it is not followed it will be pursued with vigour and without compromise."

Legal arguments on the penalties Ms. Markson should face will not be heard until May 16.

The college has said it wants Ms. Markson banned from teaching in Ontario public schools, charged $33,000 in legal costs and levied a $5,000 fine. However, it will be up to the disciplinary panel to decide on punishment.

Other possible penalties include temporary suspension of her teaching certificate or the placement of conditions on her right to to teach.

The college has no authority over teachers working in private schools or outside the province.

Ms. Markson has agreed with a college request not to teach in the meantime but her lawyer said she should not be banned permanently.

"Why shouldn't she go back to teaching?" he said. "Is the ultimate penalty in these situations always a revocation?"

Ms. Markson also might make a formal apology for her behaviour during sentencing arguments, Mr. Markle said.

Ms. Markson was accused of professional misconduct for meeting secretly with the Grade 8 student and sending him a suggestive note and e-mails in which she called him "hot" and "sexy" during the spring and summer of 1998.

York Regional Police investigated the case but no charges were laid.

The boy testified this week he "had a crush" on Ms. Markson but never had physical contact with her other than hugs and "pecks on the cheek."

In a July 2, 1998, e-mail the boy wrote to the teacher about "three spots" on his body that she could touch and he wanted to touch her "breasts, butt and ... I don't know."

In a subsequent e-mail, Ms. Markson told the boy "you are sexy, you are hot, you have sexy biceps."

His parents testified they were concerned about the relationship. They sought help from Catholic social services in August, 1998, after the discovery of a note from Ms. Markson in their son's pocket that had her telephone numbers.

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