Teacher tells court she sent inappropriate e-mails — (Canada.com)

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Canada.com

Andrew Seymour, The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Monday, December 10, 2007

A junior high teacher from the Cornwall area on trial for sexual assault told court she sent inappropriate e-mails to a 13-year-old former student, but denied she had ever engaged in a sexual relationship with the young male.

Taking the witness stand in her own defence, Jennifer Dorland told court she never kissed or fondled the student nor allowed him to touch her breasts and genitals.

However, Mrs. Dorland, 42, admitted her decision to engage in suggestive and sexual e-mail discussions with the former student, whose name is protected by a publication ban, has left her “embarrassed and ashamed.”

It was absolutely a terrible, horrible idea. I have been paying for that e-mail and conversation for two years,” testified Mrs. Dorland, who in one of the e-mails told the student she loved groans and hands on her stomach.

In the other e-mail, Mrs. Dorland – who is charged with sexual assault, sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching – asked the student if he has any regrets.

That e-mail was sent hours after the former student testified he and the teacher kissed and fondled each other on a couch in the basement of Mrs. Dorland’s home in September 2004. The two e-mails, which were entered into evidence last week, were sent on Sept. 11 and 22, 2004.

Mrs. Dorland testified the first e-mail was in response to questions about how to treat and touch a woman, while the second had to do with the student’s interest in an older girl. But on cross-examination, Crown prosecutor Jennifer Burke attacked Mrs. Dorland’s explanation, questioning why a dedicated teacher would risk her job, marriage, two children and social life when she knew the e-mail conversations were inappropriate.

“You gambled with it all because your relationship with (the 13-year-old) was stronger than you,” said Ms. Burke.

Dissecting the first e-mail line by line, Ms. Burke said the message makes “no sense” if Mrs. Dorland was merely trying to help the teen.

Despite feeling uncomfortable with the e-mail exchange at the time, Mrs. Dorland said she answered the questions because she didn’t want the student, whom she viewed like a “nephew”, to feel “abandoned” by her.

“My intention was to be there and answer questions for him,” testified Mrs. Dorland, who remained composed throughout nearly four hours of testimony.

Under questioning by her lawyer, Frank Addario, Mrs. Dorland testified earlier in the day that she had grown close to the boy after getting to know his mother during the summer.

However, she never viewed him as a peer, she testified. But Ms. Burke questioned why Mrs. Dorland told a Children’s Aid Society worker she viewed the student as a “real friend” and not a “kid friend” during an interview the day after her arrest on Jan. 26, 2006.

Last week, court heard Mrs. Dorland took a cocktail of anti-depressants, Tylenols and alcohol the day after learning about the allegations against her. Yesterday, Ms. Burke suggested Mrs. Dorland attempted suicide because the allegations were true.

But Mrs. Dorland said the suicide attempt was as the result of a combination of factors, including her father’s illness, broken marriage and work stress, not because there were any truth to the allegations.

At the time police launched the investigation in January 2006, Mrs. Dorland testified she was “relieved” because she believed the “lies” about her would be exposed. Mrs. Dorland also testified she never told her former lover and current husband, Bill MacDonald, about the allegations against her. Mr. MacDonald testified last week that he was with Mrs. Dorland the morning of the alleged sexual assault. However, he didn’t come forward with an alibi for Mrs. Dorland until March 2007.

Final submissions in the case are expected to be made Friday. The judge’s decision is expected on Dec. 20.
aseymour@thecitizen.canwest.com

© The Ottawa Citizen 2007