PENTICTON, B.C. - The father of a high school student in Penticton, B.C., is suing the local school district over allegations it failed to act on its responsibilities by allowing a man later convicted of sexual abuse to have the boy transferred to another school.
The parent, who cannot be named in order to protect his son’s identity, launched the suit claiming the Okanagan Skaha School District 67 was negligent and breached a standard of care when it approved the school transfer in August 2011.
Rene Burke, 56, pleaded guilty last December to one count of touching a young person for a sexual purpose in connection to when the teen lived with him in August and September 2011.
Burke also admitted to two breaches of his parole conditions linked to another child abuse case in Ontario.
At a sentencing hearing last week, Crown lawyer John Swanson said the boy was having trouble at home, where he was living with his father, and began couch surfing at friends' homes.
Swanson, who is asking for a four-year prison sentence, said Burke met the boy when he was 16, supplied him and his pals with alcohol and drugs, invited the teen to live with him and convinced the teen to transfer to a school near his home.
The school transfer occurred without the father's knowledge.
During at investigation, prompted by complaints from the father, RCMP learned Burke sexually abused the teen and manipulating him by saying he was an independently wealthy businessman who owned a large corporation in Ontario.
Court heard Burke, who is confined a wheelchair and is currently in jail, told the teen he needed sperm from a young man because it contained a high protein that would improve his health.
The father alleged Burke assumed a role as guardian and that the only documentation he presented to the school board when requesting the school transfer was a copy of his residential tenancy agreement.
The father filed a freedom of information request to gain access to a letter co-signed by the board's assistant superintendent, Dave Burgoyne, approving the boy's transfer application dated Aug. 12, 2011.
The man is now questioning how his son could have been approved for transfer when Burke had no proof that he was the legal guardian.
When the father filed a complaint to police he was shocked to learn Burke had outstanding warrants in Ontario for sexual offences involving young children.
Burke was arrested several weeks later for breaking the term of a court order.
"He (Burke) passed himself off as the guardian/parent in the transfer application," the boy's father said.
"It can be said that School District 67 indirectly assisted the pedophile in continuing to abuse my son in September. Had the police been given these documents in August when I asked for them, Rene Burke would have been prevented from sexually abusing my son any further."
School District 67 superintendent Wendy Hyer declined to comment, saying the case is currently before the courts.
The father's case in small claims court is scheduled for Jan. 7 of next year. He said he opted to launch the suit, hoping to receive money for his son's counselling plus pain and suffering, because he's financially unable to afford other options.
A sentencing date on charges related to the Penticton boy has not yet been scheduled.
The man said he and his son now have a good relationship and that the teen graduated high school this month. (Penticton Herald)
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