PARRY SOUND – On Monday, three former Humphrey Public School students launched a lawsuit against Kenneth Bull, their Grade 6 teacher and a convicted sexual offender.
Former student Eric Jalonen, who is now 40 years old, and other former Humphrey School students Jeff Masson and Mike Tepfenhart each filed a $4.5 million lawsuit against Kenneth Bull and the Near North District School Board (NNDSB) seeking $500,000 for non-pecuniary damages, such as pain and suffering; $2 million for economic loss, both past and future; $250,000 for special damages, such as medical expenses; $250,000 for mental distress; $500,000 aggravated damages; and $1 million against the NNDSB for punitive damages – stemming from abuse they suffered at the hands of Mr. Bull in the late 1970s.
In 1978, a Parry Sound judge found Mr. Bull guilty of five counts of indecent assault against males, according to court documents.
He was sentenced to an 11-month jail sentence followed by two years probation. Mr. Jalonen said that the three men named in the lawsuit were in Grade 6 when the assaults Mr. Bull was convicted of occurred.
Mr. Jalonen and Mr. Bull both live in Barrie. Mr. Jalonen decided to pursue a civil lawsuit about a year ago after running into Mr. Bull in the city. He contacted Mr. Masson and Mr. Tepfenhart to start the process.
Although it’s been 28 years since Mr. Bull’s criminal conviction, the men said they are suing him to make sure that other possible victims don’t feel that they are alone or have to live in fear anymore, Mr. Jalonen said.
News of the impending lawsuit published in the Parry Sound Beacon Star Saturday, August 19, prompted three more alleged victims to contact Rob Talach, the lawyer representing the men.
Mr. Jalonen, said Monday the response makes the process worthwhile.
“I know, myself, I’ve lived with drug and alcohol addiction, a lot of fear and shame; I’m on anti-depressants,” he said. “You’re not alone, what happened to me happened to other kids.”
As a victim of abuse by a person in the school system and an authority figure, Mr. Jalonen said parents should pay attention to who watches over their children.
“I’m a parent myself,” he said. “Advice I’d give, for myself and others, is watch for any behavior patterns that are different. If a child makes any allegation of abuse at school, support them and take it is seriously, follow it through,” he said. “If a child (is molested), and it happens today, they should talk to somebody.”
Humphrey School sits along Highway 141 southeast of Parry Sound and used to be run by the Parry Sound Area School Board, until it was amalgamated into the larger Near North District.
Tom Shultz, superintendent of business for the Near North District School Board, said Tuesday, school staff weren’t aware of the old charges until they heard about the civil lawsuit on the radio. Mr. Shultz was travelling to the district’s head office in North Bay to look at the litigation papers Tuesday morning and referred any questions to school attorneys.