A Great Lakes Secondary School teacher has been found guilty of sexual assault and sexual exploitation following a trial.
Tyler Shaw, 37, listened as Justice Kevin McHugh thoroughly rebuked his defence against claims he had five sexual encounters with an underage girl both while she was a student and after her graduation in 2020.
“I find his evidence to be self-serving, disingenuous, contrived and at times intentionally false,” says McHugh.
Shaw and Defence Lawyer Phillip Millar attempted to paint the girl as lacking credibility and said the teacher, who was married at the time, only had one sexual encounter with his former student after she graduated.
But McHugh didn’t accept the argument, saying during testimony the girl “struck me as a mature and intelligent young woman. She was a measured and careful witness who would readily acknowledge when she was unsure on a particular point.”
“There was nothing in her version of the events that unfolded that I found to be implausible in the context of this particular case,” he says.
That version, which McHugh ultimately accepted as fact, outlined how the pair developed a relationship while she was a student in Shaw’s Grade 12 class. Following that meetups at her home, Shaw's home and on country backroads, developed into sexual ones. The girl testified these engagements happened five times, three while she was still a Great Lakes student and two more during the summer.
McHugh dismantled Shaw’s defence throughout the Nov. 5 judgement, including his belief there was nothing wrong with meeting her outside of school. “There were any number of reasons not to. COVID restrictions about being with people from other households for one. The real possibility of marital discord if his wife were to find out about the clandestine rendezvous for two.”
“And of course the potential of having to provide a difficult explanation to his employer were they to find out about them. The better question really is ‘why?’ as opposed to ‘why not?’ meet in person.”
“I find the answer to that question is precisely and predictably what occurred once they did in fact meet,” says McHugh.
When Shaw says he was just following the girl’s wishes, “To put it bluntly this evidence was preposterous and I reject it out of hand,” the justice responded.
“His specious rationalizations for his actions and choices continued.,” McHugh continued, taking particular note of Shaw’s claim he was parked on a lonely road with the girl to avoid “wasting gas”, despite having driven half an hour to pick her up.
McHugh also concluded Shaw was in a position of trust toward the girl. “The entirety of their relationship had, at its genesis, the student-teacher dynamic… This forming of a bond in the classroom setting as a result of their frequent interactions left her particularly vulnerable once the attention he paid to her became more personal and focused as time went on.”
“His actions were intentional, prolonged, measured, insidious and ultimately criminal… He touched the complainant in sexual circumstance having induced the complainant to engage therein by abusing his position of trust,” says McHugh.
Shaw will return to court later this month to set a date for his sentencing.
The Lambton Kent District School Board, who observed the decision, released a brief statement after the verdict. “This teacher has not been in the school since the allegations were made… Please be assured the LKDSB takes all allegations of professional misconduct seriously and is committed to providing safe and caring learning environments for its students,” says John Howitt, director of education.
The 2016 provincial Protecting Students Act strips the teaching licence of any teacher convicted of sexual offences, meaning Shaw will never return to the classroom in addition to his pending criminal punishment.
Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent