Toronto Star

Mar. 1, 05:46 EDT

Teacher guilty of professional misconduct

Woman who shared love notes with student awaits penalty

By Peter Small
Toronto Star Staff Reporter
The Toronto Star

A teacher who sent suggestive love notes and went on clandestine ''dates'' with a 14-year-old boy has been found guilty of professional misconduct, but not of sexual, psychological or emotional abuse.

Annie Mary Markson, 33, said nothing as she left the Ontario College of Teachers offices on Bloor St. East where she had appeared before the disciplinary committee.

William Markle, Markson's lawyer, told reporters that his client has been ''surprised, overwhelmed'' by the attention her case has attracted.

This is especially so, he said, ''given the position we took right in the beginning - which has been proven, I think, by the decision of the committee - that there was never a sexual relationship between these two people.''

But he said Markson ''regrets it, definitely ... she crossed a line she shouldn't have crossed.''

The three-person disciplinary committee of the college did not say why it made its decision. Written reasons will follow.

Markson, who is not presently teaching, has agreed to refrain from doing so until May 16 and 17, when a hearing will determine her penalty. It could range from revocation of her teaching certificate to a suspension or reprimand.

Markle requested the hearing to assemble witnesses and evidence as to his client's character. He told reporters she is a genteel person and an excellent teacher apart from this ''breach.''

Markson was a supply teacher at John XXIII Catholic School in Markham's Unionville area in Spring, 1998. Although not the teacher of the boy at the centre of the controversy, she approached the then 14-year-old Grade 8 student and asked for help in acquiring computer skills.

The boy, now 17, cannot be named.

That summer she had five meetings with him without his parents' knowledge. They met in public places and their contact was limited to kisses and hugs, which he initiated, the hearing heard.

That summer she sent him a note that the boy's mother discovered. It read, in part, ''You have been on 'dates' with me'' and ''Just the thought of you kissing/talking/breathing with another female except me drives me crazy and makes me really upset.''

In July, 1998, they exchanged e-mails in which she wrote ''I love you'' and ''I miss you'' and ''You are sexy''.

The youth sent her an e-mail saying he would likely have a ''slight erection'' if she touched him and about wanting to touch ''your breasts, butt.''

Reached at home, the father of the boy said he would not comment given that the penalty has not been determined.

When asked how the family was taking it, the father said, ''As you might expect.'' The youth and his parents have had psychological counselling following the incidents.

Tom Forbes, the college prosecutor, said the college is pleased with the decision and called it justifiable. He said it signalled the college's view that ''these are serious matters.''

The college is seeking a revocation of Markson's teaching certificate, plus $30,000 in court costs, a $5,000 fine and $3,000 in disbursements.

''The college is convinced that all teachers know what is required of them and will find this as reprehensible as the college,'' Forbes said.

Police investigated the case but laid no charges.

Markle said that his client's reputation as a teacher has been hurt irreparably. ''Any time there is an allegation of any of sort of inappropriate behaviour they never recover from that.''

In April, 1998, the college suspended a Barrie-area teacher, Laura Sclater, 30, for sending a 13-year-old student sexually charged letters and e-mails.

The college reinstated Sclater's teaching certificate last July, but parents protested the decision. In October, South Simcoe police laid sex-related charges against her, and the college suspended her certificate.

After the criminal case is disposed of, Sclater will be required to go before a disciplinary hearing, a college official said.

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