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Serving Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Anmore and Belcarra since 1984 WEDNESDAY November 28, 2012 19 Best triumphs over Fox in the BC soccer final. Your source for local news, sports, opinion and entertainment: Teacher acquitted of sex assault charges Parents disappointed by verdict, but hope case will lead to changes in reporting of similar allegations Jeremy Deutsch A former Coquitlam substitute teacher is a free man after being acquitted on several sexual assault charges relating to allegations made by five former students dating back to 2008. On Monday, a provincial court judge in Port Coquitlam found Aleksandr Plehanov not guilty on a total of 11 charges, including five charges of sexual assault, five of sexual interference and one of criminal harassment. In his decision, Judge David St. Pierre said Crown failed to meet the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge wrote he had no doubt the children who testified attempted to provide their evidence in an honest fashion, but it is impossible to conclude whether the contact was Aleksandr Plehanov incidental or could be characterized and proven as criminal. “It was clear from the evidence that Mr. Plehanov either was completely ignorant or ignored the parameters and boundaries that were expected of a teacher by the school board and/or the teaching college relating to appropriate contact between a teacher and students,” the judge wrote. “It has to be remembered that this is a criminal case and behaviour that may breach the standards and expectations created by employers and teaching colleges in the teaching environment does not necessarily equate with behaviour that is properly characterized as criminal in nature.” The alleged victims were all in grades 2 and 3, were seven or eight years old at the time of the alleged incidents and came from three different schools in School District 43. The alleged incidents date back to January 2008. Outside the courthouse, Plehanov’s lawyer Lisa Helps said her client was “ecstatic” at the decision, noting he had maintained his innocence from the beginning. “In the circumstances, that [the judge’s decision] was the right thing to do,” she said. Helps said she had no indication of her client’s future plans. Meanwhile, the parents of the children, who can’t be identified, said they were disappointed by the verdict. One mother said she would have to carefully explain the verdict to her child. “All these children did the right thing. They went home, told their parents — they talked about it,” she said. “I will definitely reassure my daughter she did the right thing and it took a lot of strength and courage to do that.” The parents also said they hope the case will lead to changes not only in the local school district, but in others around the province when it comes to reporting protocols around similar allegations. But it was also clear the lengthy trial had taken a toll on the parents. “I’m tired of talking about this and thinking about this. I just want to not come here [the courthouse] again,” one mother said. If Plehanov wants to continue his teaching career, he likely faces an uphill battle to get back in the classroom. The B.C. College of Teachers, which is now the Teacher Regulation Branch (TRB) under the Ministry of Education, suspended his teaching certificate in 2010. A ministry spokesperson noted that just because Plehanov has been acquitted on all charges doesn’t mean he automatically gets to teach again. The TRB process was suspended pending the outcome of the trial. The ministry spokesperson said Plehanov would have to apply for a disciplinary hearing, in which a TRB commissioner would decide his fate. There is no timeline for when the date of such a hearing would be set. New campaign to fight bullies Jeremy Deutsch It just got a whole lot tougher to be a bully in Port Coquitlam. On Tuesday, against the backdrop of Riverside Secondary students and community leaders, an aggressive anti-bullying campaign was launched. The Be Someone campaign includes a number of initiatives and measures to curb the scourge of bullying. Among the initiatives is a first-in-B.C. anti-bullying bylaw for Port Coquitlam. Essentially, the bylaw will define bullying and give police powers to hand out tickets for those caught taking part in the act. The fines will start at $200 and escalate to $2,000. However, the point of the bylaw is not to collect money but to educate and change behaviour. As part of the bylaw, an anti-bullying course is being developed through the PoCo Youth Society. Those who get fines will be able to take the course to have their tickets ripped up. The bylaw will get its first reading at the Dec. 10 PoCo council meeting. But Mayor Greg Moore, who was at times emotional during the launch event, suggested the bylaw alone won’t end bullying.  CONTINUED ON PAGE 4, see BUSINESSES WILL DISPLAY. GREAT GIFT IDEA! Lisa King/NOW PoCo launched an anti-bullying campaign at Riverside Secondary Tuesday with guest speakers Carol Todd, centre, the mother of bullied teen Amanda Todd, and Gary Mauris, the founder and president of Dominion Lending Centres. ON AIR DOCK SYSTEM 6 ,#37!4$ 2 (89/38! )#/% #54-.#5%89' 6 ,+4#!41!' #9 *!40" 83 &%#/' REG. $349 169 $ SAVE $180! Plus many more Gift Ideas in-store! 604.522.4000 1200 Lougheed Hwy, Coquitlam

Coquitlam Now November 28 2012

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