Teacher faces sex charges

Woman alleged to have exchanged explicit e-mails with boy, 16

From Friday's Globe and Mail

TORONTO Four sex-related criminal charges have been laid against a Brampton high-school teacher alleged to have developed an online relationship with a 16-year-old boy in one of her classes.

Dina Calautti, on staff at Notre Dame Secondary School since 2000, faces two counts of sexual exploitation, one count of Internet luring of a child and one count of sexual assault (touching).

No other sex acts are alleged to have taken place.

Rather, the charges were laid after a relative of the boy glimpsed the text of a sexually explicit message on the screen of his home computer, said Detective Sergeant Greg Knapton of the Peel Regional Police special victims unit.

The sexual assault charge was laid after the boy subsequently told police that on one occasion, on school property, Ms. Calautti had lightly caressed him in his genital area.

Now suspended with pay, Ms. Calautti, 35, was arrested at her Mississauga home and freed on an undertaking to appear in court Dec. 17.

The age of consent in Canada is currently 14, although the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is in the process of raising it to 16 under its recently introduced omnibus crime package.

When someone is in a position of authority over a young person, however, such as a school teacher, a priest, a police officer or a sports coach, that threshold is raised from 14 to 18.

There had been no previous complaints about Ms. Calautti during her 10 years with the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, spokesman Bruce Campbell said. According to Global News, she is married and has a four-year-old child.

However, police are investigating whether other students may have had improper dealings with the popular teacher - the subject of praise on a website where pupils rate teachers - and all 1,600 Notre Dame students were given a letter to take home yesterday outlining the circumstances of the charges and urging any other complainants to step forward.

Police believe the relationship dates back to the beginning of October, based on what were described as two lengthy and explicit e-mail exchanges in which sex acts were allegedly discussed.

The Internet-luring charge against Ms. Calautti stems from a relatively new addition to the Criminal Code, commonly tacked on to other criminal charges that involve juveniles and derive from computer use.

Mr. Campbell said the school board is "disturbed" by events, and is fully co-operating with Peel police.

"I've been with the board for 10 years and I certainly have not been exposed to anything like this," he said.

Det. Sgt. Knapton agreed the charges are unusual, but rejected any suggestion that because the accused is female and the alleged victim male, the consequences are not serious.

"I can tell you we totally disagree with that," he said. "I've seen enough of the aftermath and the counselling that's required."

The 16-year-old is "confused" by what happened, Det. Sgt. Knapton said.

"We have made available the counselling services within the region."