Law & Order: SVU fake sex allegations lead to teacher lawsuit

A Nanaimo, B.C. teacher is suing an investigator who concluded he sexually abused a female student based on claims allegedly fabricated from episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Female student ripped damning allegations against teacher from TV show, arbitrator says

The allegations a female student made against her teacher — rape, torture, waterboarding — could have been pulled straight from the scripts of TV's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

And, as it turned out, a B.C. arbitrator concluded they were. 

"Should the student be believed, the teacher is one of the most heinous sexual monsters of our time," wrote arbitrator Joan McEwen in 2014, regarding accusations raised two years earlier by a Nanaimo-area girl against a teacher. Neither was named in the report. 

"Should the teacher be believed, the student is a very troubled person."

Now the teacher, Donald Barber, has identified himself in a B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit which cites McEwen's ruling. 

Barber is suing Marli Rusen, the lawyer hired by the Qualicum school district to investigate the teen's claims. 

'Ridicule, hatred and contempt'

This drawing from a student's diary was submitted to an arbitration hearing that found a teacher was falsely accused of sexual assault. (Arbitration hearing)
In his suit, Barber says he was subjected to "ridicule, hatred and contempt" as a result of a report Rusen provided the district. Rusen claimed in her report Barber had "engaged in significant sexual, physical and sexual misconduct over a number of years." 

The bizarre allegations are spelled out in his lawsuit and the arbitration.

According to Barber's suit, the student accused him in 2012 of assaulting her from Grade 5 to Grade 8. The RCMP arrested him, but the Crown declined to approve charges. 

Barber, who previously had a spotless disciplinary record, was fired in March 2013.

But last July, McEwen upheld a grievance by his union, ordering the school district to "make [him] whole." The final outcome of that matter hasn't yet been decided. 

'Horrific' allegations

According to the arbitration, the student claimed the teacher stuck knives and branches in her vagina, waterboarded and electrocuted her, and nearly suffocated her through burial.

But despite the "horrific" allegations, McEwan noted in her report the student was "never once attended an emergency clinic, hospital or walk-in clinic to treat her injuries." 

"Nor did her attentive parents notice a thing — not the torn clothing, the burns; neither the bleeding to the extent that blood dripped into the swimming pool, nor her midnight foray. Not the filth from being buried or being soaked wet from waterboarding. Nothing. How likely is it that she could suffer the indignities she says she did and then go home for dinner and homework?" 

Diary doubted

According to the arbitration, the girl produced a diary six weeks after police told her, in October 2012, they were dropping the case against Barber because of a "lack of hard evidence."

The diary included numerous entries along with a sketch of a badge the student claimed was worn by a police officer who allegedly raped her at the teacher's house.

This picture of a badge drawn by a student was submitted to an arbitration hearing which concluded a teacher was falsely accused of sexual assault. (Arbitration hearing)

But the president of the teachers' union local testified at the arbitration hearing that a search of the internet revealed all the scenarios the student described came from episodes of the long-running TV drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. 

The description of the badge also matched one worn by a Dallas police officer in the show.

"It appears that the internet and media provided the student with everything she needed to construct a case that resulted in two years of unimaginable hardship to the teacher," McEwen concluded.

"The similarities between the plot-lines of her favourite shows and reading materials, and her allegations, are numerous and profound." 

In his civil suit, Barber says he is seeking damages over the claims made in Rusen's report — claims he says were defamatory and "maliciously published ... knowing that they were false or with careless disregard as to whether they were true or not."

Rusen's office said she could not comment on the lawsuit.

According to her website, Rusen has "years of extensive experience as a labour, employment and human rights lawyer to her current work as a third-party educator and problem-solver."

The site says Rusen is "routinely retained by many private and public sector employers to investigate allegations of significant human rights, harassment and disciplinary violations."

None of Barber's allegations has been proven in court.


  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the school district. In fact, the district involved was the Qualicum school district.
    May 13, 2015 3:00 PM PT