Once again our media correspondents give vastly different and conflicting information regarding the same story.
A Brampton high-school teacher has been charged with various sex-related criminal charges—two counts of sexual exploitation, one count of Internet luring of a child and one count of sexual assault (touching).
Canada’s national newspaper, the Globe & Mail, prints an account with the following details:
…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…
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….
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.
— Timothy Appleby, “Teacher faces sex charges“. Globe & Mail, November 16th, 2007, 0507 ET.
Sounds serious enough, no? Now read some excerpts from the Toronto Star‘s account:
A Brampton high school student is outraged with Peel police for charging his teacher with allegedly committing sex-related offences against him, insisting all she did was help him get over an emotional breakup with his girlfriend.
The 16-year-old teen yesterday denied having any sexual or romantic relationship with his 35-year-old teacher but admitted he sought advice from her during online MSN Internet chats after his girlfriend dumped him.
“She did nothing wrong. She helped me get over my ex-girlfriend,” said the Grade 11 student, who can’t be named. “She did nothing to me. All we did was talk. Our conversations weren’t sexually explicit.
“She never touched me. Police have taken this way, way too far. When they told me she was going to be charged, I was speechless.”
His teacher, Dina Calautti, a married woman with a young child, has been suspended with pay from Notre Dame Secondary School where she has been teaching since 2000…
It is not known who filed the complaint against her [Mrs. Calautti]…
The alleged victim said he understood that talking online with his teacher about his personal problems was wrong but he never expected any criminal charges to result. He admitted he liked her but just as a friend and never thought she had any interest in him other than wanting to help him.
“We talked maybe for five minutes on MSN at a time. … We talked about personal stuff but nothing sexual. I probably shouldn’t have text messaged her but I was going through a rough time,” said the teen, who has known the accused woman since Grade 9. “I needed help and she was the only person there to listen to me.
“She was. She is an amazing teacher.”
— Bob Mitchell, “Teen denies teacher sex charges“. Toronto Star, November 16th, 2007, 0430 ET.
These stories are filed within a half-hour of each other. Both refer to “Ms.” Calautti, who is acknowledged to be married in both stories. Which would make her a “Mrs.” Calautti, you’d think. Or at least that’s how I referred to married female teachers in my youth. I understand the lexicon has been broadened now, so as to render any descriptive title useless.
The Globe says a relative saw explicit conversation. The Star says they don’t know who filed the complaint.
The Globe says the lad told police she touched him in the genital area. The Star quotes the boy himself saying that’s not true.
The Globe quotes the police saying the teen is “confused”. If we’re to believe the Star, he’s actually fuming mad. He also denies any sort of sexual content to the conversations, so it ought to be interesting to see what sort of evidence is introduced.
Maybe Timothy Appleby and Bob Mitchell are highly talented neurosurgeons that merely moonlight as reporters for various national outlets. In that case, I can understand their inability to focus on trivial journalistic details when they’re trying to save lives through risky, faint-hope experimental surgeries.
But more likely than not, gumshoe reporter is their day job, and they are rushing crap into print without bothering to collect all of the salient data. Somebody—a reporter or a kid—doesn’t have their facts straight.
You’d think that maybe that in itself would be worth investigating, a little.
UPDATE: Welcome SDA readers! Particularly commenter “A“, who says:
This is such a non-story — “Different reporters have different sources!” Big deal!
I beg to differ. The two stories share the exact same sources — Detective Sergeant Greg Knapton of Peel’s SVU, and Bruce Campbell from the Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board. The Star talked to the actual victim, whereas the Globe did not. But the other two sources are the same.
Given that both papers talked to the same guys (presumably at the same press briefing), don’t you find it interesting that there’s such a disparity in the facts presented to us? Even if the kid didn’t know who ratted him out, the police certainly do. The Star‘s reporter shares the same police source as the Globe, but makes no mention of a relative seeing the correspondence.
Which means, as the title implies, that one of these reporters is either lazy or stupid.
UPDATE 090739Z JULY 2009: Dina Calautti received a conditional discharge after pleading guilty to internet luring. The Toronto Star has the best account:
She left court emotionally devastated, but without a criminal record.
But Dina Calautti’s career as a teacher remains in jeopardy despite receiving a conditional discharge for what a judge described as “an error in judgment” by continuing Internet communication with a lovestruck high school student.
Calautti was placed on 12 months’ probation and ordered to get counselling. She is also prohibited from communicating with the victim.
The 16-year-old boy initiated the online contact and Calautti ended it after a week.
But by then the damage in the eyes of police and the law was done.
…In the facts previously read into court, the teen, whose identity is protected, started their communication because he was depressed over breaking up with his girlfriend.
By the time she was arrested on Nov. 13, 2007, the boy had romantic feelings for Calautti, though there was no evidence she had any for him, court heard.
They never met outside school and she ended their online chats once she realized she was in dangerous territory as a teacher.
The teen and his family are supportive of Calautti, court heard.
…At the time of her arrest, Peel Police also charged Calautti with sexual assault and two counts of sexual exploitation. Those charges were withdrawn.
— Bob Mitchell. “Teacher avoids jail for Web chat“, Toronto Star, January 16th, 2009.