Toronto Sun

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Naive 'schoolgirl'

Shrink describes teacher in court

By ROB GRANATSTEIN, TORONTO SUN

BARRIE -- Laura Sclater is not sexually deviant, but a naive, immature "schoolgirl" who yearned to be popular with the teens she taught, a forensic psychiatrist said.

But Judge Harry Keenan decided after hearing Dr. Hy Bloom testify that his evidence was inadmissible.

Keenan said Sclater's sexual intent in this case is up to him.

He said Bloom's evidence "extinguished" any possibility that the Barrie teacher was grooming for sexual contact with a teen she wrote more than 65 sexually charged letters to in early 1998.

"The issue is to determine if the accused committed the offences based on witnesses versus the denial of the accused," Keenan said. "Did she have a sexual purpose or commit any of the acts?"

'PLAYFULNESS'

Bloom said he couldn't tell the court whether there was or wasn't sexual misconduct. His testimony gave those in the courtroom another look into the Grade 7-8 teacher's mind.

Bloom also testified the fact sexual context or innuendo is in the letters doesn't mean she's engaging the teen in sexual contact. It may be "sexual playfulness" in the age group.

"She was very much in the role of a schoolgirl writing letters back and forth (to peers) rather than a teacher twice his age," Bloom said. "The gratification was akin to what she was getting earlier in life as a popular member of her peer group."

The notes showed her immaturity, poor judgment and lack of understanding of adolescent boys. "I wasn't able to overall find any sexual intention in the notes," Bloom said.

Sclater, 31, told Bloom three weeks ago she felt the most damaging element of the notes was the section where she said: "I will definitely not sleep on the way to Ottawa or the Ottawa police might have to dust me for prints!!"

'PROBLEMATIC'

Sclater claims she was repeating a joke from a friend of the boy about the teen's hands wandering.

Sclater told Bloom that in 1998 the note didn't alarm her.

"Herein lies the problem," Bloom said. "It was highly problematic, but she was unaware."

Bloom said Sclater has become more mature since she started therapy with him in 1999.

Final arguments are expected today.

Copyright © 2002, Canoe, a division of Netgraphe Inc.