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A former teacher guilty of several sexual offenses receives two years in prisonOpen full screen

Rick Watkins, also known by his former last name, Despatie, leaves the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Center in May 2021. (Photo archives)


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A former math teacher and basketball coach at St. Matthew High School in Orléans has been found guilty of 11 counts, including sexually assaulting former students and having had sexual contact with them.

Rick Watkins, also known by his former last name, Despatie, will serve a two-year sentence in a federal penitentiary with two years of probation. He was convicted of several counts relating to female victims who were his students at the time.

He is also prohibited from possessing weapons and obtaining employment or volunteer positions where he interacts with persons under the age of 16.

In September, Mr. Watkins was convicted of four counts of sexual assault and sexual interference following allegations made by four former students.

He was also convicted of two counts of stalking because his actions made some of his victims feel so uncomfortable that ;they no longer attended his classes.

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The students were all under 16 at the time of the events . A publication ban prevents Radio-Canada from reporting information that could identify them.

Justice Ann Alder of the Ontario Court of Justice heard the victims describe how they were uncomfortable when Mr. Watkins approached them and touched their shoulders and legs .

The court heard the touching sometimes occurred in class and sometimes during extra help sessions.

Mr. Watkins testified in his defense, but the judge said she found his testimony evasive and condescending.

In her sentencing decision, the judge highlighted several aggravating factors, including the young age of the victims and the fact that Rick Watkins was in a position of trust as a teacher.

Summarizing the statements of two victims, Ms Alder said one of them had felt robbed of her self-esteem and ability to connect with others, and that #x27;she was particularly afraid of being touched. Another victim suffered from depression and anxiety.

When his sentence was read, the former teacher looked straight ahead , just shaking his head when asked if he had any questions.

The judge noted that this was the former teacher's first offense and that he had significant support. She also referred to the numerous letters of support submitted to the court, in which Rick Watkins is praised for his contributions to the community through teaching and coaching.

Ms. Alder further raised the abuse that Mr. Watkins suffered during his childhood, noting that he appeared to have overcome a difficult start in life.

In a statement released at the time of his sentencing, theOttawa Catholic School Board says it collaborated with the Canadian Center for Child Protection to provide additional training to all staff since Mr Watkins' indictment. The school board also implemented a new policy in 2022 to prevent and report child sexual abuse.

The board confirmed in 2021 that Mr. Watkins was no longer employed by the school.

The Ontario College of Teachers has also implemented mandatory sexual abuse prevention training for all teachers starting in January 2022.

With information from CBC News.

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