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No jail for touching teacher

A former elementary school teacher from Langley who pleaded guilty to sexually touching an 11-year-old boy has been handed a conditional sentence.

Deborah Marion Ralph must spend 18 months confined to her home followed by six months under curfew, a New Westminster Supreme Court Justice ordered Thursday.

She also must complete 200 hours of community service.

The victim was once a student of Ralph’s, though her sexual behaviour didn’t begin until after he graduated from her class. The boy told police it started in 1998, when Ralph was 44 years old, and continued into 2001.

In a victim impact statement, he told the court Ralph’s actions left him depressed and embarrassed into adulthood and that he began abusing drugs and alcohol at age 12.

“I still constantly struggle with feelings of sadness, even though I have dealt with much of the guilt and shame,” he wrote. “I realize that I can never get my time back and it upsets me to think of what could have been.”

A psychiatric report presented to the court said Ralph’s behaviour was not consistent with that of a predatory pedophile, but of someone who believed to be in a consenting romantic relationship.

It said Ralph fell into a category of female sex offender known as “teacher/lover.”

“She was at a vulnerable point in her life, when she perceived that she had outgrown her husband of more than 20 years and was feeling restless and unfulfilled,” the report read.

“It seems that she was particularly drawn to [her victim] and his family because she recognized similarities with her own childhood experiences and identified strongly with him.”

Ralph pleaded guilty to one count of sexual interference in February.

Crown had asked for a three-year prison sentence but Justice Selwyn Romilly found that Ralph doesn’t pose a danger to the community and is genuinely remorseful for her action.

“She is at a very different point in her life after a great deal of introspection and emotional growth,” Romilly wrote in her decision.

Ralph taught at James Kennedy Elementary from 1987 to 2010, one year before her victim came forward, then started working at Langley Fundamental School.

She was promptly removed from that position after her arrest in 2011.

Mounties said none of the offences happened at school or during school hours.

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