Charge dropped against teacher accused of affair

Charge dropped against teacher accused of affair

Yearbook photo of teacher Paola Queen. Her lawyer says police “jumped the gun” by charging her.
Allegation hinged on age of student; teacher, 35, at home with their baby

Nov 24, 2007 04:30 AM

Crime Reporter

Paola Queen and her young lover were returning home from a child-birthing class last March when Toronto police stopped them.

The officers explained they were investigating a tip that the 35-year-old was conducting a sexual affair with a student at the west-end high school where Queen taught family studies as a full-time teacher.

One look at Queen confirmed another detail: she was obviously pregnant.

Queen was arrested and charged with one count of sexual exploitation. Yesterday, in sharp contrast to the blaze of publicity surrounding her arrest, a Crown attorney quietly withdrew the charge in a Finch Ave. W. courtroom.

Queen was not in court. Instead she was at home with her "beautiful baby daughter" born this past summer, her lawyer, Howard Rubel, said after appearing briefly in court.

"Everyone involved is operating as a family unit and relieved they have put this behind them," he said. Queen has a strong relationship with the baby's father, said Rubel, adding the young man is taking responsibility for the child.

Both sets of grandparents support the couple.

Rubel declined to go into details about the case except to say police "jumped the gun" by laying the charge without all the facts.

"There was no exploitation," he said. And the suggestion the baby's father was victimized, as police had alleged, is totally false, Rubel said.

Crown attorney Kene Canton told provincial court the decision to drop the charge was made after it was determined they did not have any "reasonable prospect of conviction." Canton declined further comment yesterday.

Under the Criminal Code, no one in a position of trust or authority is allowed to have a sexual relationship with anyone under age 18.

But police laid the charge before obtaining proof the student was under 18 when his relationship with Queen became sexual. He was born outside Canada and, because of Queen's abrupt arrest, decided not to talk to police, according to a source. If there had been a trial, the Crown would likely have needed his testimony to prove its case.

When police executed search warrants last winter, they found photographs showing the pair with other family members.

They seized several items, including computers and cell phones, but none listed his date of birth. His exact age is still unclear and immigration officials couldn't help, the source said.

Nor did the Crown believe it could prove exactly when the two began their relationship, although police last March said it began not long after Queen started teaching at the school in September 2005.

At the time of her arrest, the teenager had stopped attending Nelson A. Boylen Collegiate Institute, on Falstaff Ave., near Jane St. and Highway 401, and was living with Queen. Her students knew she was pregnant.

Rubel said Queen "committed no illegal offence whatsoever," and that she and family members have been "quite obviously upset by the public ordeal."

Supt. Roy Pilkington, who runs 31 Division and attended a press conference where police gave details of the arrest, could not be reached for comment.

Queen, a former child protection worker with Toronto's Catholic Children's Aid Society, remains on "home assignment" from the school board, meaning she's not working but still receiving pay.

She obtained a bachelor's degree in education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto in June 2005.

According to the Ontario College of Teachers, her qualifications are family studies, individual and society, and visual arts.

She also has two undergraduate degrees – in arts and social work – from York University, dating back to 1995.

The Toronto District School Board has had plans to conduct its own investigation once the criminal case is concluded, a board spokesperson said. The board forbids any employee from having sexual relations with a student.

Rubel said it's uncertain if his client will return to the classroom.

"Right now she's focusing on taking care of her baby daughter. That's her first priority," he said, adding, "it's been hellish for all involved."