National Post

Thursday, July 04, 2002

Youth in sex assault case accused of 'making it up'

Teacher told him to save his money 'for when you have a real girlfriend,' court hears

Francine Dubé
National Post


National Post
Laura Sclater

BARRIE, Ont. - The young man at the heart of the sexual assault case against former elementary school teacher Laura Sclater spent a difficult, at times combative, day in cross-examination yesterday, denying repeated accusations that he fabricated his story of seduction.

Time and again defence lawyer Dave Matheson got the alleged victim, now 18, to confirm one version of events, only to confront him with one or more different versions, which he had given at other times to other people.

"You're making it up as you go along," Mr. Matheson twice accused him, a charge the witness vigorously denied.

Mrs. Sclater, 31, has pleaded not guilty to one charge each of sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching and sexual assault.

The events are alleged to have taken place between January and April, 1998, after she returned from a maternity leave to resume teaching Grade 8 at a primary school where her husband was also a teacher.

The alleged victim was 13 years old at the time. Dozens of letters she wrote to him during that period have been entered into evidence, signed "love" and, in at least one instance, "I love you."

In them she refers to him as "Bad Boy" and "hottie."

The defence is trying to establish that the flirtatious language was understood by the two of them to be nothing more than a joke.

As proof of this, Mr. Matheson pointed to one letter in which Mrs. Sclater told the boy that she didn't want him to give her anything for her birthday. She told him to save his money "for when you have a real girlfriend, not me, your fake hottie."

He also pointed out that in many letters, Mrs. Sclater offered teacherly advice, encouragement and kudos for good behaviour.

Although the letters do contain complaints about her husband, Mr. Matheson drew attention to the fact that at least two letters contain loving references to her husband.

Mr. Matheson also pointed out that in the letters, Mrs. Sclater twice referred to the fact that she believed the alleged victim's mother knew of the boy's crush on her, was aware of the exchange of notes and thought it was "cute."

In fact, the boy's mother did not know and her discovery of the notes led to an investigation by police and the Children's Aid Society in 1998. No charges were laid at that time.

The incident was investigated again following the preparation of a civil suit against Mrs. Sclater and the school board by the boy's family in 2000.

Under cross-examination, it was shown that the victim has said both that he was led to believe to expect sexual favours from Mrs. Sclater during a school trip to Ottawa and that he wasn't; that physical contact between them when they played basketball was different from physical contact with his friends and that it wasn't; that Mrs. Sclater changed for basketball practice in the gym behind a screen and that she in fact changed in a storage room in the gym.

He also admitted giving different versions of who tried to claim his bag from school after his mother discovered the notes and pulled him from class. He has alleged in the past that he believes Mrs. Sclater got rid of the bag because it contained dozens more notes.

He did testify yesterday that while Mrs. Sclater did touch him improperly during basketball games they played together with his friends, he did not consider it sexual assault, then or now.

While at times he seemed to be genuinely contradicting himself, at other points he simply seemed confused.

Mr. Matheson has also entered into evidence a lawsuit, which predates a current lawsuit by about a year. It makes no reference to any sexual assault, and seeks $350,000.

The current lawsuit alleges sexual touching and claims $2.6-million from Mrs. Sclater and the board that employed her.

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