'She's a demon': Teacher pleads guilty to sexually assaulting 14-year-old boy

In a packed Ottawa courtroom Friday, a former middle school teacher pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a then 14-year-old boy who she taught in her classroom and coached on the basketball court. ​

Teen plans to share his story publicly in the hope of finding closure and helping other victims

Kyla Cowan-Wilson pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting her former student at Sir Winston Churchill Public School. (CBC)

In a packed Ottawa courtroom Friday, a former middle school teacher pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a then 14-year-old boy whom she taught in her classroom and coached on the basketball court.

Kyla Cowan-Wilson entered her guilty plea in front of the victim and his family — all of whom can't be named because of a court-ordered publication ban protecting the victim's identity — and more than a dozen of their supporters.

While the victim's parents and two sisters read their victim impact statements, Cowan-Wilson looked directly at them but showed little emotion, even as they wept.

Court heard details of how Cowan-Wilson used her position of trust to groom and prey upon the boy from September 2013 to September 2014, while she was teaching at Sir Winston Churchill Public School in Nepean.

The assault happened after the boy graduated from her Grade 8 class.

Boy was transferred to her class

According to an agreed statement of facts read aloud in court, Cowan-Wilson was the victim's basketball coach for Grade 7 and 8.

In Grade 8 she became his primary teacher after submitting a request to have him transferred into her class. She would often drive him home from basketball practice and would talk to him about his struggles with depression.

After the victim entered high school, Cowan-Wilson met personally with his mother and asked if he could return to Sir Winston Churchill to help her coach basketball.

She's a demon, a nightmare to me, but I see what she truly is now.- Victim, who is now 19 years old

It was during this time, court heard, that Cowan-Wilson began and escalated her sexual contact with the teenager.

She exchanged hundreds of sexts and near-naked photos with the boy using the texting app SnapChat, and the boy sent sexually explicit photos of himself to her. Cowan-Wilson told him she didn't want either of them to share pictures of their private parts until they could be together sexually.

Cowan-Wilson, who was married at the time, fondled the boy in her car while in a parking lot on several occasions. They did not have intercourse, but she gave him alcohol and told him she loved him.

The victim, who cannot be named or otherwise identified, said outside court Friday that he feels like a weight has been lifted off his shoulders. (CBC)

The former teacher will now be examined by a forensic psychologist, and her sentencing is expected to take place in September.

Her relationship with the boy was discovered after his eldest sister found a love letter from Cowan-Wilson in the victim's room. His mother filed a complaint with the Ottawa Carleton District School Board in January 2015, but the family wouldn't learn the full extent of the abuse until more than a year later, when a police investigation was initiated.

'I've been through the darkest past,' victim says

In court Friday the victim, who is now 19 years old, sat through much of the hour-long proceeding with his head bowed and his hands clasped tightly together, flanked by his parents. His mother and father wrapped their arms around their son as he trembled and fought back tears.

All the while his former teacher sat across the aisle, less than five metres away.

The sight of Cowan-Wilson made him "feel sick to his stomach," he told CBC News after the hearing, but also as though a weight had been lifted off his shoulders.

"I couldn't have done it without my family or friends who were there.... I've been through the darkest past. I've been through hell," he said, adding that his goal now is to share his story publicly to help other victims of sexual abuse.

"She's a demon, a nightmare to me, but I see what she truly is now."

Although the victim didn't address Cowan-Wilson in court, he would describe in detail the impact his former teacher had on the past five years of his life in a social media post.

He described how he would be overcome by anxiety that he would bump into her each time he stepped out of the house. He expressed forgiveness for the people who initially took her side and expressed his anger on his wall. 

"After years of fighting for my life, I finally faced the demon that ruined me and stole my innocence... I may be broken, but I'm alive. I will begin to heal and repair myself and you will be the one that has to face the consequences of what you've done. The world now knows the monster you truly are. You will never again harm me. You will never again harm another child. Through this letter I display my scars for the world to see, so that they will recognize the predator who caused them," he wrote in the post. 

'As a mother, I was unravelling'

The most emotional victim impact statement read in court Friday came from the teen's mother, who explained how she felt when her eldest daughter found the birthday card written by Cowan-Wilson that professed her love for her son.

She spoke about how it hurt her that she had failed to protect her son.

"I remember my initial reaction being a searing pain through my chest. I had missed something. As my head spun and I began to cry, I knew something was dreadfully wrong.... I was in shock as my girls looked to me for answers that I could not give them. As a mother, I was unravelling," she said.

For more than a year, the teen closed himself off and didn't tell his family what was wrong. His mother recounted how he became a "shell" of the person he was, and how he would often disappear for weeks at a time, preferring to couch surf with friends instead of returning home. 

"We were his reminders. We also made him talk and would want to hug him, and all those things he didn't want," she said later, outside court.

'We are proud of him,' father says

The teen's middle sister, who is 21, described in court how, years ago, she saw her then 16-year-old brother taken away in an ambulance after he had tried to take his own life.

And the eldest sister, who found the love letter, described how the family were walking on egg shells around her brother, and how it was difficult to talk about school and sports because they feared triggering his trauma.

The family said it was only in the last year that the victim gained strength enough to speak openly about his assault.

He and his father recently completed a climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise money for children's mental health services, and his father said it was a symbolic climb for both of them.

"She preyed upon him," the victim's father said. "He's an amazing young man in all aspects of life. We are proud of him and that he has gone through all this. He's going to live to see another day and climb another mountain."​