Jeff Peters teacher sexual assault, St. John Catholic High School in Perth, Ont


Jeff Peters teacher sexual assault, St. John Catholic High School in Perth, Ont

Complaints about an Ontario teacher began years before the teacher was convicted of sex assault.

In April, Jeff Peters pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting two former students.

Emily Dickinson, 31, says she now realizes she was duped during her high school years by a master manipulator — her former teacher Jeff Peters, who was recently convicted of sexual assault in Perth, Ont.

"Our relationship crossed a million boundaries in terms of messaging outside of school, making comments about me wearing a kilt, and making sexually suggestive comments," Dickinson stated. "I simply assumed I was so mature. That is not the case. You are being duped."

Peters pleaded guilty to sex crimes against two former students on April 29. Between 2013 and 2016, the victims attended St. John Catholic High School in Perth.

Other women, including Dickinson, have since come forward to say they were victimized by Peters prior to that.

Dickinson stated that she was never physically assaulted by Peters, but that her former teacher groomed her with sexually inappropriate comments and messages and then asked her to fabricate information about what was happening.

Dickinson stated that her mother approached a school administrator more than a decade ago, requesting that the teacher's behavior cease and that the teacher be reprimanded.

"There is a great deal of frustration over how preventable this entire situation was, as well as devastation. How many people have been impacted in the last 15 years? I am certain that there are many more than two "Dickinson stated.

'I made a false statement'

Between 2004 and 2008, Dickinson attended St. John, where Peters taught a popular American history class that frequently included trips to Washington, D.C., or Boston.

Peters was "engaging, interesting... buddy-buddy" as a teacher, she recalled.

Dickinson stated that grooming began when she was sixteen years old. The two communicated via an online messenger, and she described their exchanges as "super sexual."

She stated that he presented her with gifts and once told her, "Today, I saw you in your kilt. You have no idea what I would do to you if I were a boy your age."

She stated that Peters also had a "special" connection with other females. Dickinson stated that during her senior year of high school, a parent of one of those students approached the principal with concerns about Peters, mentioning their friendship.

Emily Dickinson

She was later summoned to the office, she stated, but first went to Peters.

"He was extremely calm and simply said, 'OK, all of those messages between us need to be deleted, and you need to lie because they won't understand our relationship,'" she recalled. "That is precisely what I did. I exaggerated."

Concerned for her sister

Andrea Dickinson stated that she became suspicious of Peters following Emily's graduation and the teacher's focus shifted to her younger daughter.

"He began stalking [my younger daughter] in the hallway every day, inquiring about Emily's well-being," she explained. "I just thought, he's attempting to... initiate contact with my younger daughter, who also bears a striking resemblance to Emily."

Emily, who had recently begun her studies at Carleton University, was also concerned about her sister and informed her mother of the incident with Peters. Andrea Dickinson stated that she approached the principal, who assured her that he would take care of the situation.

"However, not a single thing was done," she recalled.

Dickinson stated that she requested that her younger daughter not be placed in any of Peters' classes. However, when the schedule was released, she had been. The younger girl eventually left St. John for family reasons.

The CBC requested an interview or comment from the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario regarding parents approaching the principal about Peters years ago.

The board responded with a statement that read in part: "Given that the Board has referred this matter to the Ontario College of Teachers for review, any further comments would be inappropriate at this time."

Emily Dickinson

'At long last, they've apprehended this individual'

Andrea Dickinson expressed immediate relief upon learning Peters had been arrested and charged in 2019.

"Oh my god, they've finally nabbed this guy," she recalled exclaiming. "You can only imagine how many girls were impacted over the 11 years between the time I complained and the time he was arrested."

However, the news left Emily feeling guilty.

"I wish I had been able to do more," she stated. "Even though it is not my fault... as I grow older, I wish I had done something to prevent this."

Emily Dickinson, now a resident of Toronto, is aware that many people in Perth share her sentiments.

"It's a very small community, and everyone has been manipulated to some degree," she explained. "Obviously, what's most important to me is showing respect and remorse to victims, because that's what matters here."