Cottage Country Now
Seven Victims of Abuse sue former School Principal James Elson Tulloch
March 03, 2010
DUNCHURCH - Former Whitestone Lake Central School principal James Elson Tulloch has been slapped with a civil lawsuit from victims of sexual assault.
Also named in the lawsuit is the Near North District School Board, Tulloch’s former employer. The school was part of the West Parry Sound Board when the assaults took place. That board merged with other boards to become what is now the Near North District School Board in 1998.
From 1969 to 1987 Tulloch was a principal, teacher and gymnastics coach at the school.
In 1987 he was arrested for sexually abusing female students ranging in age from seven to 15 years old. On July 26, 1990, Tulloch was convicted of three counts of sexual assault and 12 counts of sexual indecency to a minor and was sentenced to 18 months in jail, but didn’t serve his full sentence, said Aaron Lealess, with Ledroit Beckett, the firm in charge of the case on behalf of the victims.
On top of financial compensation, the victims hope to send a message and hold the school board accountable, according to their attorney.
“In the criminal process they charge the perpetrator of the abuse and then look into his actions, but the school board is not investigated or under the microscope in the criminal process, but under the civil claim, the school board is named as one of the defendants and we can look to their conduct as well,” Lealess said Friday in a phone call with the North Star following a Barrie press conference where the victims announced their lawsuit. “A lawsuit creates a vehicle for an investigation where, through the lawsuit we can get access to the school board’s records and we can question, under oath, Tulloch himself and a representative from the school board so that we can look at what happened...so that improvements can be made. Also, the practical impact is it also creates a financial penalty or pressure on the school board to take proactive steps to prevent abuse in the future.”
Lealess added that the hope is that the claim will also bring more victims and witnesses who might be out there forward.
“We filed seven statements of claim yesterday (February 25) in the Barrie courthouse and we know there were more (cases of abuse) that took place in the criminal proceedings in 1990,” Lealess said. “Often, when a perpetrator is in a position of authority and has access to a number of children, usually the people who come forward are the tip of the iceberg or a small portion of the true number of victims that are out there.”
Jane Smith (not her real name), 35, was seven when Tulloch began sexually abusing her in 1981.
Because Smith was a child at the time of the criminal convictions, there was a court-ordered publication ban on the names of the victims or any other details that would reveal their identity.
Smith was the first victim to come forward in 1987, when she was 12 years old. She said the affects of the abuse have left her emotionally scarred and traumatized.
“I don’t know who I would have been had it not happened,” she said on Friday. “I’ve endured a life of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety - it affects my relationships, it affects my ability to trust people, it affects how I act in certain situations - it affects every aspect of my life. And now it affects my children, because now they live in an environment where they’ve seen me in really dark places sometimes.”
The abuse happened over the course of approximately two years inside the school, Tuloch’s office and in his car. Tulloch was also a gymnastics coach who drove students home from practice.
The victims are seeking financial restitution but Smith says, above all, she and the victims want to generate public awareness and accountability.
“I want to see that the school board really examine what they’re doing to protect children in the future and, to be honest, we’re entitled, we’ve endured a lot of hard times. We’re entitled to compensation, we’re entitled to recognition for what we’ve been through,” said Smith.
The firm is also looking for other alleged victims of Tulloch as well as any witnesses to the abuse.
“We’ve filed the claims the next step would be the school board will file a statement of defense and then, this really kickstarts our investigation phase where we locate witnesses and try to make contact with people who have any information,” said Lealess.
Smith said she also wants an apology from the board, which she said she never received.
“They knew and they ignored and they allowed it to continue,” she said. “An apology from him (Tulloch) would be nice - not that I think that I will get it. There was an apology in his confession (in 1990), but then he recanted the confession. The school board never acknowledged any abuse.”
At press time the Near North officials said they had yet to be served with the lawsuit.
As of press time Tulloch had not returned requests for an interview.