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'They could have stopped this': Sex abuse warnings at Ottawa high school went unheeded

Over the course of decades, three different teachers at the same Ottawa high school sexually abused dozens of teenage boys and girls. A CBC investigation found parents and teachers raised concerns about two of the men, but nothing was ever done.

Warning: This story contains details some readers may find disturbing

Former student Peter Hamer stands outside Bell High School, where three men groomed and sexually abused dozens of teenage boys and girls between the 1970s and the mid-2000s. (Julie Ireton/CBC)

For more than 30 years, three teachers at the same Ottawa high school sexually abused dozens of teenage boys and girls.

A CBC investigation discovered students, parents and teachers raised concerns about two of the men, but nothing was ever done. 

CBC found no evidence that school board administrators either notified police or carried out thorough investigations about incidents that took place at Bell High School between the 1970s and mid-2000s.

None of the three teachers were fired. Two were moved to other schools, but the abuse continued. There's no evidence of collusion between the three men.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board refused an interview, citing "ongoing legal action and privacy regulations."

In a statement, the board said it has reviewed its files to see if anything could have been done differently, and that it has co-operated fully with police investigators.

"Abuse should never happen, especially not to a child and not at a school where children should be able to learn in a safe environment," the board wrote.

The men accused

Bob Clarke, Don Greenham and Tim Stanutz all spent time either teaching or coaching students at Bell High School in Ottawa's west end.

In 2016, all three men were charged within weeks of each other with crimes including sexual assault, indecent assault and gross indecency.

Don Greenham, left, Bob Clarke, centre, and Tim Stanutz were charged within weeks of each other in 2016 with crimes including sexual assault, indecent assault and gross indecency.

The complaints involved about 30 former students, now men and women in their late 20s to late 50s, and span four decades, from 1970 to 2005.

Only one of the three men ever went to court. In March, Clarke pleaded guilty to eight charges and is now in federal prison.

I want to hear how they let this happen.- Marc Leach, victim

That same month, Greenham, facing 52 charges involving 22 former students, died at his home. He was 75.

Tim Stanutz, who faced six charges based on complaints from two women, died in a fiery head-on collision with a dump truck in May 2017. Multiple police sources describe the death as a suicide.  Stanutz was 57

CBC interviewed more than 20 victims, as well as numerous former students, teachers and administrators. CBC was also able to unseal court documents, lift publication bans on the names of several victims and learn further details through freedom of information requests.

These photos of Bob Clarke appeared in yearbooks for Sir Robert Borden High School. (Sir Robert Borden High School yearbooks, 1991)

The Clarke case

On at least five occasions, between the '70s and '90s, students, parents and teachers complained to school administrators about Bob Clarke. The music teacher had made inappropriate sexual comments, exposed himself to students, masturbated in front of teen boys and sexually touched them.

This past March, Clarke pleaded guilty to crimes involving eight former students, including Marc Leach.

"He cornered me and put his hand on my groin," recalled Leach, now 44, one of Clarke's students in the early 1990s.

"They could have stopped this in the '70s."

In the mid-1970s, Clarke was seen peering into one student's bedroom. He also masturbated in front of the teen and "rubbed the victim," according to court documents.

Marc Leach said Bob Clarke cornered him and put his hand on Leach's groin. (Michel Aspirot/CBC)

The victim's name remains under a publication ban. Clarke pleaded guilty to gross indecency in relation to those incidents.

The former student confirmed to CBC that his father warned John Beatty, then the principal of Bell High School, to keep Clarke away from his son.

John Beatty was principal at Bell High School. (Bell High School yearbook, 1978)

Beatty, who went on to become a school board superintendent, confirmed he received a visit from the victim's father.

"He just indicated that Bob's behaviour was a little bit out of line with what you'd normally expect from the teacher," said Beatty, now retired.

Beatty said the complaint was vague, and that the father asked him not to take any further action.

He said he spoke to Clarke and "indicated that it had to stop." The former principal said if he'd fully grasped the seriousness of the situation, he would have gone to police.

"And I would have asked our board office for an investigation," Beatty said.

'He's hurting students'

Diane Langlois, who spent 28 years teaching at Bell High School, worked with all three of the men accused of abusing students at that school.

Langlois said she went to a school administrator in the 1970s with concerns about Clarke after one of her students, a teenage girl, came to her worried about her male classmates.

Diane Langlois worked with all three men, and said she told a high school administrator about one student's specific concerns with Bob Clarke. (Julie Ireton/CBC)

"He's getting away with things. He shouldn't be doing things," Langlois said the student told her. "I said to her, 'What's he doing?' She said, 'He's hurting students.'"

Langlois recalls saying she thought the allegations were "sexual" in nature, and believed something had been done.

Student also complained

Peter Hamer, a student in Clarke's music class in the 1980s, said Clarke constantly made sexually charged comments, asked to take nude photos of him and masturbated in front of him.

In 1986, Hamer complained to then-principal Patrick Carroll. Hamer's younger brother was about to start at the school and he didn't want him facing the same abuse.

Peter Hamer said he warned then-principal Patrick Carroll about Clarke in 1986. (Michel Aspirot/CBC)

"I said, 'I just don't want him here,'" Hamer recalled. "[Carroll] didn't say which school, but he said, 'We can give him other opportunities.'"

Clarke finished the term at Bell, then moved to Sir Robert Borden High School, less than two kilometres to the east. He was replaced by a new music teacher, Tim Stanutz.

Carroll died this past July.

New school, new victims

It was at Sir Robert Borden High School that Trevor Fenton encountered Bob Clarke.

Before one band performance, Clarke asked the 15-year-old if he'd masturbated to relieve the tension.

"Anyone who speaks in such graphic terms to children has got to be dangerous," Fenton said.

In 1989, when Clarke's sexualized comments became too frequent and personal, Fenton told the school's principal, Marcia Reynolds.

"She asked me flat out, as I recall, whether this was something I wanted to press a formal complaint about," Fenton said. "That sort of leaves me slack-jawed."

There was no investigation nor formal reprimand, according to Fenton. Clarke remained in the classroom for another three years.

Board investigates

Bob Clarke conducting the Bell High School band. (Bell High School yearbook, 1975)

In 1992, the Carleton Board of Education, which is now the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), launched an investigation after another unnamed complainant reported Clarke had made "sexually inappropriate comments."

According to the OCDSB, Clarke "resigned before any decision about termination of his employment could be made."

Several teachers who taught at the school at that time said they were never told about an investigation, nor were students.

Marcia Reynolds was vice-principal at Bell when Clarke taught there, and was still principal at Sir Robert Borden when Clarke was finally forced out of his job in 1992.

When contacted by CBC, she said she has no memory of Clarke.

Marcia Reynolds was a vice-principal at Bell. (Bell High School yearbook, 1986)

The Greenham case

Franz Glaus in 1975. (Bell High School yearbook, 1975)

In the mid-1970s, Madeleine Glaus, whose two teenage boys attended Bell High School, heard that teacher and basketball coach Don Greenham was sexually abusing students.

"He used to squeeze their genitals," said Glaus. Victims included Glaus's son, Franz.

At the time, Greenham was teaching younger children at Bayshore Public School, but also coaching Bell's basketball team.  

Several victims told CBC the abuse often began as initiation exercises, then progressed to molestation and other sexual activity.

Glaus, now 84, told a principal at Bayshore Public School what she knew. When she heard nothing back, she went to the school board. Eventually, board officials questioned her sons.

"We both testified to what we knew, what we'd experienced," Franz Glaus said.

Another former principal of Bayshore Public School, Mike Vyse, confirmed to CBC that in the late 1970s, a student told him about Greenham's inappropriate behaviour on a canoe trip.

"I found it quite unacceptable, childish and ridiculous for a teacher to be carrying on, and I told Greenham so to his face," Vyse said.

Vyse would not specify what the complaint was about, but said he passed the information on to a superintendent. Soon after, Greenham was moved to a neighbouring school.

Madeleine Glaus's two teenage boys attended Bell High School in the mid-1970s. (Julie Ireton/CBC)

The Stanutz case

An undated photo of Tim Stanutz. (Bell High School yearbook)

Tim Stanutz, the music teacher hired to replace Bob Clarke at Bell High School after he was transferred, was charged with grooming and sexually molesting two teenage girls between 1997 and 2005.

Unlike with the other two Bell teachers, CBC uncovered no evidence authorities knew about Stanutz's behaviour.

In a statement of defence to a lawsuit launched against the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, the OCDSB denied Stanutz molested students, but if abuse did happen, it was done without their knowledge and was not their fault.

In the spring of 2016, after former student Laurie Howat finally told a therapist about her sexual abuse at the hands of a teacher 28 years her senior, Stanutz was charged and removed from the classroom.

A duty to report

Bell High School isn't alone when it comes to historical sexual abuse by teachers, according to Nicholas Bala, a law professor at Queen's University.

"It was very widespread, and our society, our institutions did not respond appropriately," said Bala, who specializes in child and family law.

Teachers, principals and doctors are among the professionals who have a legal duty to report suspected child abuse. The first duty to report law was drafted in 1965, but only applied to suspicions about parents.

Nicholas Bala, a law professor at Queen's University, said historical sexual abuse by teachers was 'widespread.' (Frederic Pepin/CBC)

"The laws changed in 1978 in Ontario, [then] changed again in 1984. So it was sort of a shifting standard," Bala said. "Now, it's very clear that there would be a duty to report."

Former Bell principal John Beatty agrees that both rules and attitudes were different then.

"There was a very different set of legalities and processes," Beatty said. "It was only later that, for instance, the duty to report to a children's aid society and so on became something that was very, very firm in people's minds."

Calls for an investigation

In a statement, the OCDSB said it's "very sorry that a person who was employed by our district could have inflicted harm to a child."

The board said it implemented new policies and protocols in recent years to help staff recognize "professional boundaries."

The Ontario College of Teachers and the Ontario government also recently strengthened laws to "better protect Ontario students from sexual abuse by teachers."

However, the board does not support a new investigation.

"Given the passage of time since the incidents, the turnover of staff in that period, the limited detail known to us about the incidents and the victims … we do not believe that an independent administrative investigation at this point is necessary to inform our commitment to student safety," the OCDSB said in a statement to CBC.

Peter Hamer, left, and Marc Leach. (Michel Aspirot/CBC)

Years after the abuse they suffered at the hands of the three teachers, many of the victims disagree.

At Clarke's sentencing hearing, Marc Leach discovered his experience took place decades after authorities were first warned about the teacher.

"Thirty years later, [the school board is] actively trying to conceal the truth, and that pisses me off," Leach said.

"I want to hear how they let this happen."


Need help?

Here are some resources for victims of sexual assault:

Assaulted Women's Helpline: 1-866-863-0511

Attorney General's support services for male survivors of sexual abuse: 1-866-887-0015

Clarifications

  • In an earlier version of this story CBC said Tim Stanutz killed himself. The text has been adjusted to reflect that the description of his death as a suicide came from multiple police sources.
    Nov 30, 2018 3:55 PM ET

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