A former student of three Whitehorse schools is suing her former teacher and the Yukon government, alleging that the teacher sexually abused her beginning in Grade 4 and that the Yukon government did nothing to prevent or stop it.
In a statement of claim filed to the Yukon Supreme Court March 1, Desire Mitchell, now a resident of Ontario, alleges that she was sexually abused by teacher Paul Deuling starting in the late 1970s and into the 1980s.
The sexual abuse began at Jack Hulland Elementary School during the 1978-79 school year, the statement claims, when Deuling allegedly began “inappropriately touching” Mitchell, then a Grade 4 student, and “grooming” her for further sexual abuse.
The claims says the abuse continued when Mitchell was a student at Porter Creek Junior Secondary School in 1983 and 1984. The alleged sexual abuse eventually “carried on to an incident of rape in the summer of 1986” when Mitchell was a student at F.H. Collins Secondary School, the claim continues, at which point Deuling forced Mitchell “into ongoing sexual exploitation involving multiple incidents of sexual intercourse.”
The alleged sexual abuse happened at all three schools, the statement says, as well as “other locations in or near Whitehorse.”
“At all times during the Sexual Abuse, (Mitchell) was a student and a vulnerable minor and (Deuling) was a teacher many years her senior,” the statement says. “At no time was the Sexual Abuse or any element of it a consensual sexual relationship.”
The Yukon government is also “vicariously liable” for the alleged sexual abuse, the lawsuit continues, as Deuling was a teacher at the time and therefore serving as an “employee, representative or agent” of the government.
The government was aware, or should have been aware, of Deuling’s “sexual predation activities or tendencies towards students” like Mitchell, the statement says. The government should also have known, the statement says, that Deuling, in his role as a teacher, would be “in charge of young children … on an unsupervised basis for extended periods of time;” the “likelihood” that Deuling “might sexually assault (Mitchell) and others like her;” that Deuling “was in an ongoing and inappropriate situation or relationship with (Mitchell) who had been his pupil;” and the fact or likelihood that the inappropriate relationship “involved sexual activity with a minor, including sexual intercourse.”
The lawsuit also claims that the government failed to, among other things, “investigate the suitability” of Deuling to be in charge of students unsupervised, “investigate complaints and allegations of misconduct” against Deuling both before and after hiring him as a teacher, and “intervene in and protect” Mitchell from the alleged sexual abuse. Instead, the lawsuit alleges that the government took “steps to assist and protect” Deuling and his career instead of Mitchell, and also failed to assist Mitchell in dealing with the impacts of the alleged sexual abuse so she could “complete her education in a safe and respectful environment.”
“In the context of the (Yukon government’s) special relationship with and duty of care to (Mitchell), the acts and omissions of the (Yukon government), through its employees, representatives and agents, constitute high-handed, malicious or reprehensible conduct,” the statement says.
As a result of the alleged sexual abuse, Mitchell has suffered physical injuries, “serious emotional and psychiatric impacts,” loss of self-esteem, “difficulty forming healthy emotional relationships and attachments” and “delayed completion of educational program and entry into gainful employment,” the lawsuit says.
Mitchell is seeking damages including loss of income, “special damages and expenses” and the cost of “future medical, psychological, psychiatric, counselling and other services” as well as costs for the legal action.
None of the allegations has been tested in court.
The News made multiple attempts to reach Deuling for comment, including speaking with two family members and leaving a voicemail at a phone number associated with Deuling. The News did not receive a response before press time.
The territory’s justice department, which speaks on behalf of the Yukon government when it’s being sued, did not respond to a request for comment.
Contact Jackie Hong at email@example.com