Parents of both high school and elementary students at Collège Bourget in Rigaud said they had to sit down last week and talk about sex with their children.
While some parents welcomed the opportunity, parents of younger children said it’s a subject they weren’t quite ready to discuss.
The subject was broached because an educator at the school was arrested and charged with having sexual contact with an underage girl who was a 15-year-old student at the prestigious private school. Mathieu Chamberland, 40, a member of the school’s support staff, was also charged with inciting contact, and with luring the girl over the Internet. The age of consent in Quebec is 16.
“I think they’re a bit young in primary to have to deal with bad things like that,” Vaudreuil resident Jennifer Gentile said of her son. “He knows what’s right and what’s wrong; we didn’t go into detail.”
Christian Laplante, who has a daughter in Secondary III, said the incident gave him the opportunity to reinforce what she already knew.
“I was a bit disturbed because my daughter went on a school trip to Boston where he was a supervisor,” said Christian Laplante, a Rigaud resident. “I didn’t give her any advice. She’s already very wise.”
Still, other parents said they had to calm their children down after vicious rumours circled in the hours after news of the incident broke.
“Students heard that he abused four girls at the same time,” said Julie, a Ste-Marthe resident who didn’t want to divulge her last name. “I’m glad the teachers spoke to them quickly to tell them what happened.”
Sûreté du Québec Police say Chamberland had a six-month-long relationship with the girl that ended last March.
The school’s general manager, Jean-Marc St-Jacques explained the girl told a friend about the relationship during the holiday period, and that friend in turn told an adult. When the school found out, it called police and the department of youth protection. Chamberland was arrested on Jan. 10.
St-Jacques said news about Chamberland spread like wildfire among the students, so staff and councillors at the school held several sessions with students to explain what happened. He said the school already has instruction about sexual education and intimidation as part of its curriculum, but in light of the incident, he’s wondering whether that instruction needs to be re-evaluated.
“This is why we’re asking if our training is adequate,” St-Jacques said. “How can it be that an adult and a young girl had something between them and nobody saw it? How can we avoid this?
“We want students to know, if they see something, they have to get involved to help the child.”
The school, which is both an elementary and high school, suspended Chamberland over the duration of his court procedures.
Chamberland, who is a father and is married to one of the school’s administrators, was released from jail and ordered not to be employed in any job where he is an authority figure over underage children. He is also forbidden to use a computer or to access the Internet.
This is Collège Bourget’s second staff member in less than a year to be arrested for sexual impropriety towards minors. Last July, former teacher Jean-Guy Corbeil, 76, who taught at the school for two years, was charged with possession of and accessing child pornography. The arrest came two weeks after the school decided not to renew his teaching contract. Corbeil taught Grade 11 courses in introduction to philosophy and advanced French. At the time of his arrest, the school’s administration said it was not aware of the allegations. He was charged with accessing child pornography between Jan. 1, 2005, and July 11, 2012. He was also charged with having child pornography in his possession between July 8 and July 11, 2012.
Overall, most parents said they were satisfied with how the administration handled the most recent situation.
“I’m happy, because the moment they knew it, they reported it,” said Patrick Lemoine, a resident of Rigaud and the father of a boy and a girl in the high school.
Collège Bourget, located near Ontario, was established in 1850 and has 1,100 day students and 250 boarders. Many students come from French-speaking Africa and Latin America.