Katherine Kitts sentenced to 14 months in jail for sexually exploiting student

A former educational assistant who was working at Sir Robert Borden High School in Ottawa has been sentenced to 14 months in jail for sexually exploiting a student over a two-year period.

Crown had asked for 12 to 14 month jail term, defence wanted 90-day intermittent sentence

Katherine Kitts leaves the Ottawa courthouse after her release on bail in October 2014. She was sentenced Tuesday to 14 months in jail and two years of probation. (CBC)

A former educational assistant who was working at Sir Robert Borden High School in Ottawa has been sentenced to 14 months in jail for sexually exploiting a student over a two-year period.

Katherine Kitts, 46, was arrested in October 2014 after a mother found sexually explicit texts on her son's phone and contacted police with concerns about Kitts's relationship with him.

The offences happened between April 2012 and April 2014 while Kitts was working at Sir Robert Borden High School. She had sex with the student repeatedly throughout those years, including in Kitts's van, parked off school property. 

Kitts was initially charged with sexual assault, sexual exploitation and telecommunication with a person under 18, but after pleading guilty to sexual exploitation in March, the other two charges were stayed.

'Significant' breach of trust

At a sentencing hearing last week, Crown Robert Thomson called for a 12 to 14-month sentence.

Kitts's lawyer Susan Chapman had argued for a 90-day intermittent sentence, followed by probation, saying what happened was out of character for the mother of two teenage boys.

Justice Célynne Dorval disagreed with that argument in her decision, instead characterizing it as planned and frequent.

Dorval pointed to significant breach of trust, the age difference between Kitts and the victim, and the length and scope of sexual contact as aggravating factors in her decision.

"This cannot be characterized as a lapse of judgment… The relationship was fostered through repeated text messages," Dorval wrote.

"Ms. Kitts wasn't questioning her judgment during 15,000 text messages?"

Dorval said the sexual encounters couldn't have been spontaneous because they required planning in order to keep them secret. She pointed to one instance where Kitts brought an inflatable mattress with her in her van.

"This planning is inconsistent with [a] lapse in judgment," she said.

Kitts was sentenced to two years of probation to begin when her jail term is up.

Katherine Kitts leaves in a car following her sentencing hearing in Ottawa on Aug. 22, 2016. (CBC)

'My innocence was destroyed'

In a statement read in court by the Crown in March, the victim said Kitts threatened to fail him if he ended things.

"My innocence was destroyed by Mrs. Kitts," the boy said in the statement. 

The court heard Tuesday how the victim 'drifted away' from friends and family at the time because he was afraid they would find out what was happening.

He was also scared to go away to play sports because she might "snatch him," the court heard.

The victim's parents sent a statement to the media after the sentencing, thanking police and saying justice had been served.

"Hopefully the strength of our judicial system in this ruling will spare others from suffering though future, similar crimes," it said.

"We are happy that this is over. We will now be able to begin to put this past us, and move forward in life."

Defence 'disappointed'

Reading from a written statement at last week's sentencing hearing, Kitts apologized and said she'd do anything she could to make up for the damage she had caused.

On Tuesday she sat quietly in court, and didn't say anything after the sentence was read.

After the ruling, Chapman said she and her client were "disappointed" with the "very significant" sentence.

Kitts, who had worked one on one with students with learning disabilities, was on leave from the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board with pay from October 2014 until her guilty plea in March.

After that, the board said she would no longer be paid and that the board would make an immediate recommendation to terminate her employment. 

A board spokesperson confirmed last week that Kitts is no longer employed by the OCDSB.