Alberta teacher sentenced to 12 months probation after workplace assault

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An Edmonton-area high school teacher has been sentenced to 12 months probation after being convicted of assault in the touching of a female colleague. 

Aaron Heinemann, 57, admitted to touching the buttocks of a female colleague without her consent in a school copier room during August of 2017.

He was charged with sexual assault two years later but was found guilty of assault after the court ruled there was no provable sexual nature to his actions.

On Wednesday, Alberta Provincial Court Judge Jeffrey Champion sentenced Heinemann in Leduc, saying the veteran teacher had broken a trust through his actions.

"In my view, Mr. Heinemann has exercised the poorest of judgment as one who is held up as an example and a role model," Champion said. "Mr. Heinemann should have known better."

"It is revolting that another employee had to be subject to that, even momentarily."

Heinemann will be conditionally discharged and avoid a criminal record if he observes the conditions of his 12-month probation, including avoiding contact with the complainant.

The woman's identity is protected by a court-ordered publication ban.

She read out a lengthy victim impact statement to the court, saying she still deals with anxiety and panic attacks four years after the assault. 

"The assault did not just harm me. It harmed every member of my immediate family," she said.

She also spoke of a backlash at work, including what she described as threats of professional reprisal that led her to seek a transfer to a different school.

"I cannot bear the thought of a similar assault happening to someone else."

Crown prosecutor Alexandra Dunn argued against a conditional discharge, citing the physical nature of the incident. 

"This was done to an individual in her place of work, in an area where she was around colleagues and should have felt safe," Dunn argued in court Wednesday.

"One of those colleagues took that safety away from her."

Heinemann's defence lawyer noted his client's lack of prior disciplinary issues over more than three decades of teaching and coaching, and characterized what happened as an impulsive act of poor judgment.

"He is extremely sorry this took place," said Dino McLaughlin. "It would not be in the public interest if his career as a teacher was impaired. Or if his career as a volunteer and supporter of young people was impaired."

Heinemann declined to speak in court at the suggestion of his lawyer.

He is still facing potential discipline from the Alberta Teachers' Association.

With files from David Ewasuk