by: Brian Medel
A twisted tale involving the one-time volleyball coach and classroom teacher unfolded in a provincial courtroom in Comeauville before the married father of four was sentenced to six months in jail by Judge Tim Landry.
The story detailed a bizarre obsession he had with two teenage girls. It was outlined after Atkins, 44, pleaded guilty to sexual assault on the day his trial on several sex-related charges was to begin.
In recounting one of the brazen attacks on students, Crown attorney Rosalind Michie told how Atkins pinned a girl against the wall in his Digby County classroom, put his hands down her pants and kissed her face and neck.
The girl tried to push away but could not break free because Atkins was too strong. Suddenly, he stopped and walked away.
But Atkins’s classroom attacks didn’t end. In September 2012, cops were alerted by government social workers about a case involving a teacher who sexually attacked teenage girls.
Several students were interviewed over the course of the investigation. A warrant resulted in the seizure of electronic devices from Atkins’s home.
A month later, he was charged with sexually assaulting two girls between Nov. 1, 2011, and Sept. 14, 2012. Both were under the age of 16 at the time.
After he was charged, Atkins was removed from the classroom. “He had a habit of touching her behind and her genitalia in class while other students were present so I assume that was done furtively,” Michie said about other episodes of classroom misbehaviour toward one of the victims.
In the classroom, Atkins also pulled a girl’s top down far enough to expose her breasts and kissed her face and neck.
Atkins became obsessive and began texting and Facebook messaging. Police found hundreds of text messages between the teacher and a student, some explicit and suggestive.
“The flavour of these text messages shows that he was trying to build her up, telling (her) what a good person she was and how special she was and (it) progressed from that to the blatant and overt sexual comments,” Michie said about messages Atkins sent to one of the victims.
The Crown read one from a stack of text messages to give the court an idea of what was being transmitted.
“Even the tiniest little thing will give me something to hold onto. Most of the time I feel like I’m chasing and chasing and it really does kill (?) (sic) when you barely even look at me. I just want to grab you by the face and give you the most passionate kiss ever and then just hold you and smell you and make you like it,” the message read.
Court was told Atkins was noted for a lack of boundaries with the students. When it became clear police were investigating, the school’s principal and teaching staff met to discuss the situation, said Michie. But the teachers were encouraged never to speak to anyone about the alleged behaviour of their colleague.
More disturbing events were relayed, including one about a student who had apparently injured a groin muscle in gym class. Atkins told her he had to rub an analgesic cream on her injury.
“Which he did twice on the same day … to her upper thigh,” said Michie. “She told police Atkins wanted to rub cream on her the following day even though it didn’t hurt.”
Atkins was said to have shown pictures of nude girls to students in his classroom. He also offered to provide alcohol to students and even photographed some of them.
The identities of the victims are protected by court order. Victim impact statements were not read in court but were referred to by the Crown. Victims became withdrawn, experienced loss of appetite and became unable to deal with people as they once had, Michie said.
Atkins spoke briefly, choking back tears. “I would like to offer my most sincere apologies,” he said. “I hope that they can get back to a normal life as soon as possible.”
In addition to being sent to jail, Atkins was placed on probation for two years and ordered to register as a sex offender and submit a DNA sample to a federal data bank.
Charges of sexual exploitation and invitation to sexual touching were withdrawn by the Crown. Landry agreed with the joint sentencing recommendation made by Michie and defence lawyer Joel Pink.
“Parents watch their children go off to school in the morning with the thought that those children will be safe, and unfortunately that is not always the case,” the judge said.
“This type of behaviour certainly contributes to society’s concern that safety is not always paramount in the schools.”
This article was written by Brian Medel and originally published on thechronicleherald