A teen testified Wednesday from behind a large black screen that his teacher sexually assaulted him when he was a nine-year-old student in her music class.
The identity of the male student, now 18, is protected, but his voice was heard during the court appearance.
For his parents, it may have been the first time they heard the full scope of the allegations against the teacher.
Warning: Some of the allegations are disturbing. Reader discretion is advised.
Sylvia Zoleta, 54, has pleaded not guilty to sexual assault, invitation to sexual touching and sexual interference of someone under 14. The case is being tried by judge alone.
The student testified that Zoleta would keep several students for detention. After the detention was over and other students were dismissed, she would lock the door.
The door had to be unlocked from the inside, the student said.
He said she touched his penis in the classroom and asked him to perform oral sex on her. He claims they had eight sexual encounters. He said all the assaults occurred behind her desk or behind the piano, and always on a Friday and a Monday.
“I remember having the weekend in between,” the student said.
During some of the alleged assaults, he was in his boxers and T-shirt. He said he removed her bra, which he learned how to do from watching the movie American Pie. However, Zoleta was only fully naked once, he said.
She gave him more detentions, but he didn’t attend.
During cross-examination from Zoleta’s lawyer, the young man admitted he had a discipline problem at the school and that he did not warn his younger brother about the alleged sexual abuse.
There are discrepancies between what the young man initially told police and what he said in court, lawyer Bill Markle said.
“The first time you were interviewed, you didn’t mention a ruler,” Markle said.
“That is the most grievous complaint. When you had the opportunity to speak with police,” the teen didn’t mention it, Markle said.
“We should accept what you say here and not the statement with the police from January 2011?”
“Yes,” the student responded.
The student testified he tried to tell his parents about the assaults at the time. He told them she was picking on him but didn’t tell them about the alleged abuse.
“Your parents were upset with you. They were getting calls from the school about detention,” Markle said.
“You were getting punished for it at home, physical discipline by your father,” Markle said.
“But you didn’t tell them about the touching or about the ruler,” he continued.
“They may have found out about this for the first time….sitting here in court,” he said.
A teacher who taught the teen in Grade 11 then took the stand. The teacher cannot be named, as it could identify the teen and his high school.
The teacher said she taught the student in the 2010-11 school year.
“He was a quiet student. He worked nights. His assignments were late but there were no issues with behaviour,” the teacher said.
For an independent study that year, the student had to research child abuse.
“A few days before the presentation date, he said he didn’t want to present in class, but wanted to do it one-on-one,” the teacher said.
“I consulted my department head. The principal said this was okay but to warn him that any information disclosed had to be passed on and the school would have to act on it.”
The student gave his power point presentation but was very upset.
“He disclosed at the end he was a victim of child abuse and gave me details. His voice was shaky…he was upset.”
The teacher said she passed on the essay to the school principal and police.
“He said he was abused by his music teacher in Grade 5. He said it was touching in the genitals and her name started with a P, and it was a female. She had long finger nails…because he had nightmares about it.
“He was breaking out in a cold sweat. I told him I had to disclose this to the administration, and he was okay with that.”
During a meeting the next day with school staff and police, the student was physically sick.
“He threw up in the office a few times. He was very upset,” the teacher said.
Under questioning from the defence, the teacher said that only one of the student’s parents believed him.
“He said he had told his parents and his father didn’t believe him, but his mother did,” the teacher said.
“He said he was self harming in Grade 7 because of the abuse.”
The principal took the stand next and agreed with the teacher, saying the student was so distraught he needed to be hospitalized.
“He started crying, shaking and vomiting in the garbage can in the office,” the principal testified.
“When I told him I would have to tell his parents, he became more upset, and said he wanted to harm himself. I asked him to [rank himself] from one to 10, to determine the degree he was at risk. He said he was a 10.”
The principal said the student then called his father and was “sobbing” on the phone.
After his father and police came to the school, they took the student to hospital. The police were called for the student’s safety, the principal said.
A friend of the victim, whose name is protected, testified Wednesday that the student confided in her about the sexual abuse, but that he would shut down if she asked for details. He also told his friend that he would get an anxiety attack if he saw the teacher, the court heard.
The trial continues Thursday with the lawyers expected to give closing arguments on Friday.