Ontario teacher charged with sex crimes against minors pleads guilty
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, March 7, 2017 5:28AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, March 7, 2017 6:59PM EST
BELLEVILLE, Ont. -- An Ontario middle-school teacher who had sexual encounters with several students and traded nude photos with them pleaded guilty to seven charges on Tuesday in what her lawyer said was an effort to take responsibility for her actions.
Jaclyn McLaren, a French teacher for Grades 6 to 8 at a school in a community near Belleville, Ont., originally faced 42 charges after eight teens -- six of whom were her students -- came forward with allegations of a sexual nature, according to an agreed statement of facts.
She was arrested early last year and has been out on bail since then, though she has not taught in that time.
At the court hearing on Tuesday, McLaren pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual exploitation, two counts of luring, possession of child pornography and making explicit material available to people under 18 and people under 16.
Her lawyer said after the hearing that the charges had been condensed because several of them applied to the same behaviour, and the court cannot convict a person of two crimes for the same thing.
McLaren did not speak as she left court but her lawyer, Pieter Kort, said she felt tremendous remorse.
"She did the best thing that she knew to do and that is to plead guilty and take responsibility for what happened," he said, adding the last year has been difficult for McLaren and her family as well.
McLaren is set to be sentenced May 19 after undergoing a sex offender assessment and the Crown has indicated it will seek a jail sentence, though prosecutor Lynn Ross would not say how long.
Kort said there is "no question" his client will spend time behind bars because of the nature of the offences and said she recognizes she will never teach again.
Court heard that McLaren was blackmailed into sending nude photos of herself after a male student who was using her phone for school purposes in class searched through her personal photos and found one of her exposed breasts.
The student showed it to two classmates and after McLaren asked the boys not to tell anyone about the photo, one of them demanded she give him additional photos in exchange for his silence, court heard.
One of the teens, none of whom can be identified, said he received photos of her breasts and vaginal area through the image-sharing app Snapchat starting in 2014, when he was in Grade 8, through early last year, court heard. He shared those images with two of the other complainants.
McLaren admitted to sending him one image of her breasts while he was 13 and still her student, court heard.
Another boy reported receiving similar pictures through Snapchat in the summer of 2014, but the teacher said it was actually a year later, when the boy was 15, court heard.
Sometime later, McLaren met the boys on a local trail, where they drank beers before going back to her car for mutual fondling and kissing. She then performed oral sex on both boys back on the trail before leaving, court heard. The boys reported this took place in 2014, while McLaren believes it happened the following year.
McLaren performed oral sex on both boys again later on separate occasions, court heard, and one sent her a photo of his genitals.
A third student reported trading explicit photos with McLaren starting in 2013, when he was 15. They had sex at her home three years later, just after he turned 18, court heard.
A fourth boy later came forward with screen shots of photos McLaren had sent him of her naked breasts, in which her face was also visible, court heard.
A fifth teen involved in the case was not a student and McLaren said she was unaware that he was 16 when she sent him a photo of her breasts. She admitted, however, that she did not take reasonable steps to determine his age, court heard.
Both the sixth and seventh complainants were students of McLaren when she sent them photos of her breasts, court heard. In one case, she sent a video of herself fondling her breasts, which the then-15-year-old showed to friends at a party, court heard.
Last year, an eighth teen was found to have received two photos of her breasts as well as a video of McLaren nude and simulating a sex act, court heard. Again, McLaren said she did not know he was underage but had not made sufficient effort to find out. That boy was 17 and not her student, court heard.
The Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board, where McLaren worked, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.