By Elaine O’Connor
The Crown is urging that the alleged touching of an eight-year-old female student and two others by a Coquitlam substitute teacher should be considered sexual assault.
In making her closing arguments in Port Coquitlam Provincial Court Tuesday, Crown counsel Wendy van Tongeren Harvey cited allegations one of Aleksandr Plehanov’s Grade 3 students at Glen Elementary made that he had rubbed her buttocks and touched her pelvic area while she was at his desk in March 2010. When the girl felt uncomfortable and moved away, he asked her to come closer again and continued the touching.
“The Crown says that that is describing what we see to be a purposeful effort on his part to sexually assault the little girl,” van Tongeren Harvey told Judge David St. Pierre.
“The Crown urges your honour to find that that was a sexual assault.”
The girl’s parents reported the incident to the RCMP. Subsequently two other girls at the school came forward with allegations, one of touching on the shoulders, under her shirt at her waist and on her thigh, the other with touching on her shoulders and buttocks.
The Crown addressed their particular testimony Tuesday afternoon and also urged the judge to find that those alleged instances of touching also constituted sexual assault.
Two additional female students had also made complaints: one girl at Bramblewood Elementary alleged he twice pulled her on his lap and rubbed her belly in October 2009, and an Eagle Ridge Elementary student complained she was asked to sit on his lap while he touched her waist and pelvic area during a January 2008 incident.
Plehanov is charged with five counts each of sexual assault and sexual interference involving five female students plus one charge of criminal harassment stemming from a visit to one of their houses. He has denied the allegations.
The Crown closed their case on June 21, after calling more than 30 witnesses.
Plehanov’s defence counsel Lisa Helps chose not to present any evidence.
Van Tongeren Harvey stressed the allegations occurred in a context of Plehanov having been warned repeatedly about his conduct in classes.
“He continues teaching while this investigation is going on,” she said. “It is not as if he is kept in the dark about the concerns about this type of behaviour.
“The important thing is the context,” she said. “He is basically bouncing from school to school in Coquitlam and basically leaving a path behind him that resulted in repercussions for the children.”
During the trial, the court heard at least three Coquitlam school district staff had warned the teacher about inappropriate interaction with students dating back to 2007, long before the district investigated a complaint or the RCMP got involved.
Plehanov taught at several other district schools where his behaviour was an issue, including Hazel Trembath Elementary and Rochester Elementary.
Plehanov’s teaching certificate has been suspended since May 2010, according to the Ministry of Education Teacher Regulation Branch website, and he is currently ineligible to teach in B.C.
Closing arguments will continue Wednesday.
Source : theprovince