Former St. Matthew High School Coach Convicted of Multiple Sex Crimes Against Students

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A past teacher and basketball coach at St. Matthew High School in Orléans, known as Rick Watkins or Rick Despatie, was convicted Thursday of multiple sex crimes committed against underage students, including sexual assault and exploitation.

Justice Ann Alder declared Watkins culpable of a series of offences comprising of four instances of sexual assault, an equal number of sexual interference, two cases of criminal harassment, and one count of sexual exploitation. The accusations were pegged to four individual victims who courageously testified against Watkins.

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Initially, Watkins was indicted on 54 charges. However, the Crown confirms they pursued 20 charges overall, leading to Watkins being exonerated of nine offences. In response to the allegations laid against him, both the Ontario College of Teachers and the school board pledged investigations to examine how complaints filed over the years had been treated.

The Ottawa Catholic School Board, reacting to the verdict, issued a statement asserting the safety of their students as their prime concern. They expressed solidarity with the victims of the child crimes and offered unwavering support. The statement also noted that all board personnel had completed the “Commit to Kids” program, designed to shield children from abuse. This program, mandated by the Ontario College of Teachers, has required teachers to undergo compulsory sexual abuse prevention training since 2022.

Crucial to this policy is a new reporting process for potential cases of child sexual abuse or grooming. Previous practice permitted reporting only to school staff members. However, a new mandatory mandate now requires such concerns to be reported to the superintendent of human resources – a separate third-party to review and treat these reports seriously.

The College, however, has yet to respond to a plea for comment.