Ottawa

Former students sue board over alleged abuse by music teacher

Two former Bell High School students have filed lawsuits against the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) for nearly $4 million for alleged historical sexual abuse by their former music teacher.

2 women claim OCDSB failed to protect them from Timothy Stanutz

Two women claim Timothy Stanutz sexually abused them between 1997 and 2004, when they were his students at Bell High School. Stanutz died in 2017. The women are now suing the school board and the Stanutz estate for a combined $3.8 million. (Facebook)

Two former Bell High School students have filed lawsuits against the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) for nearly $4 million over alleged historical sexual abuse by their former music teacher.

The women, who attended the Bells Corners school four years apart, both claim Timothy Stanutz developed long-term sexual relationships with them.

Stanutz died in a car crash on May 15, 2017. He was 57.

None of the allegations in the civil suits has been proven in court.

Board failed in its 'legal duty': claims

The alleged assaults occurred between 1997 and 2004, when both women were in their early to late teens. The women claim the school board failed in its "legal duty to provide for the safety of its students."

In a statement to CBC shortly after the lawsuits were filed Wednesday, the OCDSB said it's "very troubled by the accounts alleged in the Statement of Claims."

The board said it offered its "complete cooperation" to Ottawa police as soon as it was made aware of the allegations of sexual assault by the former teacher.

The OCDSB said it immediately cooperated with investigators when it learned of the accusations against the former teacher. (Danny Globerman/CBC)

The identities of the two women, now 31 and 35, are protected by a court-ordered publication ban.

The women also filed separate criminal complaints against Stantuz in the spring of 2016, leading to six charges including sexual assault.

At the time, Stanutz was still teaching music at Bell High School. He retired in June 2016.

Shortly after Stanutz's death, the Crown withdrew the criminal charges.

The new lawsuits also name Stanutz's estate and his widow, Sandy Bailey, in her capacity as his "litigation administrator."

Teacher a 'model educator'

Each claim is for $1.9 million.

"There are damages for pain and suffering, for loss of income past and future, as well as special damages and punitive damages," said Karine Devost, the lawyer representing both women. 

The suits claim Stanutz was a "model educator, an upstanding member of the teacher staff at the school, beloved by many students and colleagues."

The plaintiffs said they "looked up to Stanutz, trusted him and admired him."

Stanutz was a popular, award-winning music teacher who won awards for excellence in teaching from Carleton University in 1999 and the OCDSB in 2011. Most students at Bell High School called him "Sir."

In online comments posted after his death, fellow teachers called Stanutz "a leader" with "a compassionate ear," who was "robbed of his honoured and heartfelt final farewell" due to the accusations made against him before his death.

Stanutz's obituary noted his 30-year teaching career, his 32-year marriage and his devotion to his four children.

Student was 'groomed'

But the civil suits filed this week claim Stanutz took advantage of his position of authority.

"The relationship that Stanutz developed with the plaintiff, under the guise of a teacher-student, allowed Stanutz an opportunity to be alone with the plaintiff and to exert total control over her, prey upon her and sexually abuse her," according to both statements of claim filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

There is no reason to disbelieve these women.- Karine Devost, lawyer

One plaintiff who took music and band with Stanutz between 1997 and 2002 alleges she was singled out and "groomed" by her former teacher.

She said the abuse started with hugs, but soon progressed to sexual molestation and sexual assault including masturbation, kissing and fondling.

The second woman's claim spans 2001 to 2004, when she said she confided in Stanutz and "trusted him blindly".

Her abuse involved sexual activities including oral sex.

"There is no reason to disbelieve these women," Devost said. "They've been suffering since these events took place and there is evidence to support these claims." 

Shame, guilt, confusion

The abuse caused them physical pain, mental anguish, shame, guilt, low self-esteem, confusion regarding sexuality and difficulties interacting with authority figures, according to the statements of claim.

Both women said the abuse occurred at Bell High School in and around the music department. In both cases the abuse ended when they graduated, the women said.

The claims allege the board is responsible and failed to adequately supervise, control and give guidance to Stanutz, ignored or failed to effectively react to information, suspicion or complaints, and failed to recognize the pattern of behaviour that Stanutz was engaging in with certain students, including the plaintiffs.

Donald Greenham, a former Bell High School basketball coach, was charged with sexually assaulting former students in 2016. He died in March 2018. The Ottawa-Carleton District School board and Greenham's estate are being sued for $8 million. (CBC)

More accusations

In March, four former Bell High School students launched lawsuits against the OCDSB for a total of $8 million in an unrelated case.

Those suits allege the board failed to protect them from former basketball coach Donald Greenham.

He was also charged in 2016 with the historical sexual assault of several of his students. He died of a heart attack in early March.

That same month, another Bell High School teacher, Bob Clarke, was convicted of sexually assaulting students in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. He's currently serving a two-year prison sentence.

About the Author

Julie Ireton

Senior Reporter

Julie Ireton is a senior reporter who works on investigations and enterprise news features at CBC Ottawa. You can reach her at julie.ireton@cbc.ca