Ottawa

OCDSB facing $25M in lawsuits over sex abuse at Bell High School

Victims and alleged victims of three former teachers accused of sexually abusing students at Ottawa's Bell High School are suing the city's biggest school board for a combined sum of more than $25 million, CBC news has learned.

More victims, alleged victims plan to sue Ottawa-Carleton District School Board

Former Bell High School student Kasie Morris is one of two women who went to police in 2016 to accuse her former music teacher, Tim Stanutz, of sexual assault. She's now suing Stanutz's estate and the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board for $1.95 million. (Kate Letterick/CBC)

Victims and alleged victims of three former teachers accused of sexually abusing students at Ottawa's Bell High School are suing the city's biggest school board for a combined sum of more than $25 million, CBC news has learned.

Three new lawsuits were filed late last week and several more former students say they also plan to sue the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) for negligence in the historical abuse they claim to have suffered from the 1970s to 2000s.

The board said it is "in the process of filing notices of intent to defend" itself against the latest accusations. It has filed a statement of defence in the case of Tim Stanutz, a former Bell music teacher who died in 2017. Statements of defence have not yet been filed regarding the other two teachers. 

Former OCDSB trustee Pam FitzGerald said she's "concerned" by the size of the claims, but noted such lawsuits are often settled before going to court.

"So the final numbers are unlikely to be these kind of numbers unless they actually do go to court,"  FitzGerald said.

The claims name a range of damages including guilt, shame, humiliation, addiction, anxiety, depression and loss of enjoyment of life. 

From left: Don Greenham, Bob Clarke and Tim Stanutz.

The Stanutz case

In the spring of 2016, former Bell High School students Kasie Morris and Laurie Howat went to police to file complaints about their former music teacher, Tim Stanutz.

Both women, who were four years apart and didn't know each other when they attended Bell, said Stanutz began grooming them when they were just 14, and later sexually assaulted them in his private office at the back of the school's music department.

"The physical aspect started oddly with just a hug in one of the back rooms," said Morris, who said she was victimized in the late 1990s. "And then from there, very quickly, it escalated to hands wandering and different touching."

In May 2017, a few months before his case was set to go to trial, Stanutz died. Morris and Howat have filed lawsuits against the school board and Stanutz's estate.

They're each claiming damages of $1.95 million

In its statement of defence, the OCDSB said: "Timothy Stanutz was universally seen to be a model professional educator, respected and admired by students, parents, co-workers, other educators, the extended education community, the School Board."

The board denies Stanutz groomed and abused students, but clarifies that if he did, "such alleged acts of Mr. Stanutz were not authorized by the School Board."

The Greenham case

In a separate case, five men and one woman have filed lawsuits against the OCDSB for abuse they allege took place in the 1970s and 80s, when Don Greenham was a coach at Bell High School. They're suing for a combined total of $12 million.

Greenham died in March, staying all criminal charges against him.

The details of the allegations against Greenham include alleged abuse that began when one victim was just 11. All six complainants allege the board was negligent and failed in its duty of care.

Dan Leeson, one of the alleged victims suing the board and the former teacher's estate, said Greenham should never have been left alone with children, particularly during extra-curricular activities.

"I was sexually assaulted and humiliated right on that canoe trip," Leeson said. "Where in anybody's mind was that acceptable? That's not right."

John Myers has launched a $4.8 million civil suit against Bob Clarke and the OCDSB, alleging the school board failed to protect him and 'failed to properly investigate Clarke's background, character and psychological state prior to accepting him as a teacher.' (Jennifer Chevalier/CBC)

The Clarke case

In March, Bob Clarke, another former Bell music teacher, was sentenced to two years in prison after he pleaded guilty to eight sex-related crimes involving eight former students.

Two former students have now filed civil suits against Clarke and the OCDSB.

One victim, John Myers, alleges the school board was negligent, failed to protect him and "failed to properly investigate Clarke's background, character and psychological state prior to accepting him as a teacher."

Myers is suing for $4.8 million.

"I would say that Clarke probably started bothering me when I was in Grade 10," said Myers, one of the former students whose complaints led to Clarke's conviction.

"It just got progressively more aggressive as time went on, and you know, I kept going back because he was like a father figure."

Another victim who alleges Clarke assaulted him in the early 1980s, but who cannot be named due to a publication ban, is suing Clarke and the board for $4.85 million. Other victims of Clarke tell CBC they also plan to sue.

"It's not about money. It's being given the chance to say this really happened, and someone has to be held accountable for it," Morris said.

About the Author

Julie Ireton

Senior Reporter

Julie Ireton is a senior reporter who works on investigations and enterprise news features at CBC Ottawa. She's also the host of the new CBC investigative podcast, The Band Played On. You can reach her at julie.ireton@cbc.ca