January 02, 2014 - 8:30 AM
PENTICTON - A father is getting the silent treatment from Okanagan Skaha School District 67 which allowed a child predator to transfer the father's son from one school to another.
Since Rene Mark Burke, 56, was arrested and charged with sex offences against a person under the age of 14, the victim's father has been trying to understand how this happened and get an apology from the school board.
The father has copies of school documents, obtained through a freedom of information request, which show Burke visiting the school district's office in the summer and getting approval for a student transfer. The now-convicted man used his own name to pose as the boy's guardian and attempted to have the child moved to a school closer to Burke's address. The transfer was approved without the biological parent's notification.
"The people you think to trust with your kids," the father had said. "What would have happened if the guy killed my (child)?"
When the parent found out about the transfer he visited the school board and was told they would protect Burke's privacy. According to the father, they believed Burke was the legal guardian. This left the parent having to prove who he was and his relation to the teenage boy.
Board staff and its elected trustees were almost mum on the topic, refusing to speak while the criminal case was before the courts.
Board vice-chair Bruce Johnson said the rules on how transfers were made were written before he arrived on the board.
"We are kind of in an uncomfortable (position). I would never dodge anyone who wants information."
Board chair Ginny Manning said she couldn't talk about court matters.
Burke was later convicted of fear of sexual offence against a person under 14, touching a young person and two breaches of recognizance. He was later sentenced to 43 months in prison with an expectation of facing justice in Ontario for alleged crimes he committed there. While the father of the teen victim is content with the offender's fate the parent hasn't left the court system. He's launched a small claims civil action against the school board.
The next court date for the civil trial is in January. The father wants school board officials and trustees to explain in court how a non-parent or non-custodian, with a criminal record, was given approval to transfer a child from one school to another. He does not care if he gets money and also doesn't mind if he loses.
"I'll have (them) on the stand to justify what they did, in court, in front of a judge, in front of the public."
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