Special education teacher on trial for assaulting student under 10

Robert Bender is seen in court on the first day of his criminal trial. (Sketch by Lauren Foster-MacLeod - image credit)
Robert Bender is seen in court on the first day of his criminal trial. (Sketch by Lauren Foster-MacLeod - image credit)

The criminal trial of a special education teacher began Monday with the teacher is accused of assaulting a student who was younger than 10 years old.

Robert Bender is charged with assault stemming from a December 2020 incident involving one of his students.

A support worker who works for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board described witnessing the alleged assault.

The support worker, like others testifying, is not being named to protect the identity of the student and to honour a court-imposed publication ban.

On Monday, the worker testified she saw the student, who at the time was younger than 10, being dragged by his wrist out of a classroom by Bender.

She said the student flopped into a "wet noodle" in reaction to the teacher grabbing him, and the worker said she was a "little bit shocked and scared" with the way Bender handled the student.

She described Bender as looking "frustrated and angry" as he approached the student.

The woman was at the school to view the student, who was in a class dedicated to children with extra behavioural needs.

Father initially thought a 'non-issue'

Earlier Monday, the student's father told the court his son's behaviour issues required the school board to intervene and a special action plan to be developed by the school.

He said when the incident first occurred he considered it a "non-issue" because he supported his son's teachers and understood Bender had restrained his son before.

He said the school also initially "downplayed" the incident.

Bender was 48 when he was charged with assault, harassment by threatening conduct, intimidation by threats of violence, and mischief. The Crown is only pursuing the assault charge.

He sat next to his lawyer during the first of the four-day, judge-alone trial in a mostly empty courtroom Monday. He wore grey dress pants and a white button-up shirt featuring tiny polka dots as his wife sat directly behind him.

When the charges were announced in April 2022 police said the special education teacher was being charged for allegedly mistreating two students under the age of 10, but there is now only one complainant.