Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

A former Toronto secondary school teacher who was found to have carried out a relationship with a female student, exchanging more than 2,000 pages worth of text messages with the girl, has dodged jail time, according to a sentencing decision released this month.

Colin Ramsay, a former high school teacher in Toronto, admitted to carrying out a relationship with an underage student that, at times, was sexual in nature, at an Ontario Court of Justice (OCJ) trial in September 2022. He ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of communicating with a person under the age of 18 for the purpose of sexual exploitation

The conviction usually comes with a minimum six-month jail sentence, yet, in a sentencing hearing held last month, OCJ Justice John McInnes ordered Ramsay to complete a sentence of house arrest, to be carried out for two years less a day.

“[The evidence presented] satisfies me that Mr. Ramsay is genuinely remorseful and chastened by the fact he is the subject of criminal proceedings,” McInnes wrote in his decision.

When reached for comment, the Toronto District School Board told CTV News Toronto it does not comment on matters after they appear before the courts. At the time of Ramsay’s arrest, the district said he was immediately placed on leave, and, according to the court document, he is no longer employed as a teacher in the city.

Ramsay, who was about 45-years-old at the time of the offence, taught photography and yearbook classes to students in Grades 11 and 12 at a local high school, according to an agreed statement of facts. The specific school was withheld from the decision, in an effort to protect the victim’s identity.

The victim, referred to only as ‘YP’ within the document, and Ramsay first met in the school’s hallway when she was in Grade 10. Her and her peers would “often” spend time in Ramsay’s classroom, going so far as to forgo their actual classes “to hang out with him,” the decision states.

In September 2019, the court documents state that the victim enrolled in Ramsay’s yearbook class and soon after, obtained the teacher’s phone number, “in order to ask questions about her assignments. In the preceding weeks, the texts became more frequent and soon, she was confiding in the teacher about her personal problems, it said.

In December the two met outside of school hours for coffee, according to the statement.

As the second semester began, YP remained in Ramsay’s class. The teacher was often “informal” with students, the statement says, and on at least one occasion “play fought” and/or “wrestled” with the student in front of her peers. The teacher also made sexual innuendos towards the student before inviting her out for dinner in an interaction that her then-boyfriend was present for, the document said.

Over the course of January, the pair met in person approximately three to four times, the document states. Ramsay told the girl “not to tell anyone,” it continues.

By March 2020, the meet-ups were taking place one to two times per week, often to dine at restaurants. During these interactions, the teacher began to place his hand atop hers while eating at restaurants, the decision reads.

Throughout the winter and into spring, the texts messages exchanged between the two remained “constant,” alternating “between friendly topics of conversation to sexual innuendos, jokes and comments.”

The nature of the conversations evolved to the point in which Ramsay inquired about the minor’s sexual preferences and sent her “sexually suggestive stock images,” according to the document. The teacher also began to present the student with gifts, the statement reads, and repeatedly told her she was “hot” and “cute.”

By mid-June 2020, the student stopped responding to Ramsay’s texts and calls and soon after, reported his behaviour to a trusted adult.

In all, over 2,000 pages of text messages between Ramsay and the victim were presented as evidence in court.

The report sparked a joint-investigation by the Toronto Police Service (TPS) and the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, and on June 10, 2020, Ramsay was placed into custody and released on an undertaking.

In handing down his sentence, JP McInnes noted that “unlike many people who commit this offence, Ramsay was not “trolling the Internet to attract and entice vulnerable children and adolescents.’”

“However, his use of these telecommunications was equivalently pernicious,” he continued.

It is “abundantly clear that the comparatively frictionless medium of text messaging let Mr. Ramsay ramp up the frequency and intimacy of his interactions with YP, to test increasingly sexualized interaction with her and by these means to gradually inculcate a sexualized overtone to his relationship with YP,” the justice wrote in his decision.

While McInnes wrote that he is satisfied that Ramsay has shown remorse, the justice found that the teacher did display an intent to “eventually have sexual contact with YP.

In rendering his decision, the justice cited Ramsay’s duty as a caregiver to his younger brother, who depends on him for day-to-day care.

A sentencing of house arrest not only spared the brother, whom the justice called “blameless,” but it would also save community resources.

“In a close case this circumstance was the tipping point,” the decision notes. 

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