School has child taken away because "psychic" claimed she was abused

The administration at Terry Fox Elementary in Barrie Ontario called Children's Aid on Colleen Leduc and accused her of allowing her autistic daughter to be sexually assaulted. They based the accusation on something a "psychic" told the special ed worker who worked with the kid.
"The teacher looked and me and said: 'We have to tell you something. The educational assistant who works with Victoria went to see a psychic last night, and the psychic asked the educational assistant at that particular time if she works with a little girl by the name of "V." And she said 'yes, I do.' And she said, 'well, you need to know that that child is being sexually abused by a man between the ages of 23 and 26.'"

Victoria, who is non-verbal, had also been exhibiting sexualized behaviour in class, actions which are known to be typical of autistic behavior. (See other typical actions here) That lead authorities to suspect she had a bladder infection that may have somehow been related to the 'attack.'

Link (Thanks, Bruce!)


  1. I’m surprised you guys (boingboing) didn’t comment on the GPS tracking and auditory monitoring system she had attached to her daughter.

  2. The administration should be made to sit in front of the school for a week wearing dunce caps.

  3. sadly, Canadian jurisprudence does not support the kind of enormous cash settlement this mother deserves.

  4. It’s still early days on this story, we can hope that the school board will straighten this out. Denying her the IBI therapy isn’t a good sign, but a lawsuit should always be a last resort, and she seems pretty sensible, eh?

    (slapping sounds)

  5. Why does education and psychology attract the most intellectually weak and unstable students in university? Did anyone else ever notice that? You know: the person constantly interrupting the lecture to ask questions they should have understood from their readings, the one who calls you at 3 a.m. because they are so depressed they are going to commit suicide, the one you initiates a casual affair with you and then starts stalking you all over campus and off: always a psych or ed major in my experience. These are the teachers and caseworkers of today. Little wonder.

    Aside: How many suspicious spouses or over-protecive parents are going to buy those GPS recording devices? How long before some savvy marketer disguises one as a cellular phone? Now that this idea is published on the Internet, is it my intellectual property?

  6. Why does this woman get to receive a huge cash settlement after this? This opinion might be really un-PC and it’ll probably make some people angry, but why would you put 50 grand into a child’s education when they have severe mental problems and probably will never be able to contribute to society? it’s an investment in nothing. I guess i’m sort of a eugenicist, but it makes little sense to me.

  7. @#11 MAX:

    1. She was falsely reported to have allowed her child to be molested. Luckily there wasn’t a man in the correct age range in her friends/family to be arrested and accused of a sexual crime based on a scammer’s word. This was both distressing and wrong.

    2. Like most parents, she loves her child and wants the best for her, no matter what life has dealt. She doesn’t seem to be deluding herself that her child will magically recover from the autism.

    3. By their actions, the school has discredited the course of education that was available to her. It has left her with fewer or no options for the care of her child.

    4. The child is a human being. While you may be willing to write off her life at this point, her mother and, I would assume, many others aren’t. There are varying degrees of autism and of self-sufficiency. It is possible to improve her situation and make her, if not productive, at least less of a burden on her mother and society.

  8. The part of this that truly makes me angry at the Children’s Aid/Child Welfare types is that they’re willing to indiscriminately believe accusations with this little support. Sexual abuse is one of those things where, when it really happens, evidence tends to be ambiguous. When the investigator has proven willing to believe something just because the Psychic Friends Network said it, it’s really hard to believe they’re not off in the weeds the next time too. It’s the boy who cried wolf: do it often enough and they won’t believe you. And they’re not being unreasonable, you’ve proven time and time again that they can’t believe you.

    And it’s not like the ed. assistant has an excuse either. The law says “reasonable cause to believe”. This one isn’t reasonable. If there’s any justice, the ed. assistant should lose her job along with the staff at the school who didn’t ask whether she had anything more substantial than that, and the Children’s Aid workers who didn’t question the veracity of this particular accusation should be at least removed from case work and preferably fired as well.

  9. @#11 Max,
    Maybe you should learn a little more about Autism. An autistic person isn’t necessarily someone who will never contribute to society. There have been many high-functioning autistic persons who have contributed quite a lot. There have been numerous successful authors, researchers, musicians, actors even sports figures. Also, you may want to learn something about the Canadian court systems. As someone else already mentioned, this woman probably won’t be receiving any “huge cash settlement”.

    Has anyone suggested sueing the psychic?

  10. @#14 Brett Burton:

    They psychic will weasel out. “You misinterpreted what I said.” “I was picking up a past life.” “It was another child.” “It clearly states in 1/2 pt type on my sign that this is for entertainment purposes only.”

    This is a charlatan we are talking about. Her talent is a gift for telling people what they want to hear. The “client” got to be a hero for a little while by reporting the supposed abuse. In the end everyone loses except the psychic, who gets her money and at worse, loses a client.

  11. Why does education and psychology attract the most intellectually weak and unstable students in university?

    Intellectually weak? Dunno about that. Unstable? Possibly, at least as far as psych students go; many of them are interested in the profession because they get to concentrate on others’ problems instead of their own.

  12. You guys are all idiots. psychics NEVER LIE. Everything they say is always 100% true. Okay I can’t keep that up. And since I’m not being nice this morning, everyone who had anything to do with this should lose their job. and the psychic should go to jail. Child abuse, perhaps? What would you call fucking with the life of an autistic child for no good reason?

  13. The “Safety” tag on this thread is highly inappropriate.

    This is an example of how unsafe we’ve become.

    This sounds like classic “Gate Keeper syndrome” on the part of the E.A.

    Wasn’t there a huge scandal a few years back about claims of sexual abuse emanating from people who were “communicating” with autistic children through “magic box keypads” ?

    A pattern of the useless preying on the defenseless.

  14. @#13 Todd
    …Children’s Aid workers who didn’t question the veracity of this particular accusation…

    The social worker showed up, basically said it was B.S., and closed the case. I think they handled it pretty well.

    That being said, it’s clear the child was in a crummy program. The parent did her best to keep the child in the school, going as far as buying a GPS tracking device and audio recorder, and the school kept messing up. The assistant, and maybe some other staff, needs to be canned and the program fixed. I applaud the mother for her handling of the situation.

  15. There is a magazine for therapists called “Psychotherapy Networker.” An issue earlier this year of the mag featured a book review in which the author of the review wants psych professionals to take psi more seriously.

    Finally, you might ask, what does this all mean for working therapists?

    People in therapy can be ripe for anomalous experiences, in and outside the office. Psychic experience seems to thrive in the presence of intense emotion, dramatic states of feeling, even crisis. And in the therapy encounter, amid the heightened interaction, all sorts of feeling, strange or otherwise, leaches out.

    But even more important, beyond the razzle-dazzle of telepathy and clairvoyance, Mayer is suggesting that “extraordinary knowing” is on a continuum with more common traits of intuition and empathy. Haven’t we discovered that no matter what therapy a person practices, the therapeutic relationship is the key to a successful outcome? And if it’s true that anomalous experience is a form of “radical connectedness,” a psychic muscle that reaches beyond our present capacities to connect, what a wonderful clinical tool it could make. And if these skills or gifts are on a continuum, can they be enhanced or taught? Can people be taught to access anomalous experience? If not, if it induced even a little more empathy, it would help the therapeutic encounter.

  16. The headline needs correcting. The child wasn’t “taken away”. The local child protection agency made one home visit and closed the file.

    #11 — Max:

    Where did you get the “huge cash settlement” idea? What Ms. Leduc wants is an apology from the school board and an appropriate educational placement for her daughter.

    And: why would you put 50 grand into a child’s education when they have severe mental problems and probably will never be able to contribute to society?

    50 years ago, it is likely that Victoria would have been institutionalized — at a much higher cost to society than the $50K you mentioned. Intensive behavioral intervention can help persons with autism able to interact, reducing their own suffering and increasing their personal dignity.

    I’d like to know more about the device Victoria was wearing — which make was it, and how well does it work?

  17. Congratulations, Max.

    You’ve successfully ensured that no BB reader will every take you seriously again. It takes a certain chutzpah to out yourself as a teenage Dr. Mengele, but you’ve done it. Mazel tov. BTW, have you discussed your stance on eugenics with your parents?

  18. Why isn’t gullible-teaching-assistant and fake-psychic identified by name and business address?

    Well, I know you’ll get sued if you call them gullible-teaching-assistant and fake-psychic, but you could simple label them “teaching assistant who made the report” and “psychic consulted by the teaching assistant”.

    BTW: pedophiles everywhere, you know which school to go to. After all this, they’re going to think twice before making another report. Even if they do, it’s likely nobody will believe them.

    It’s better to be safe than sorry. But the threshold has got be set higher than this. You also has to consider the effects of a false allegation. We were lucky here, but there were so many ways this could have gone wrong.

  19. To be fair, part of the problem is the excessive paranoia that is rampant within the educational system up here. It’s not merely that the educational assistant was jumping the gun, but rather that there’s a culture up here among youth workers that states that you do not ever make a judgement call when there’s a suspicion of abuse — that you have a legal obligation to report even the slightest hint of abuse to the Children’s Aid Service and let them decide, no matter how innocuous the evidence seems. It is further continually reiterated during teacher education courses that a youth worker who does not report a suspicion of abuse can actually be held criminally liable.

    Educational Assistants themselves are not necessarily teachers and therefore often have minimal education by comparison, so I could understand if the EA called the CAS themselves. From what the article says, however, the EA reported it to the principal, who then made the call. That’s taking it to an extreme, but it’s also a huge CYA move on the part of the school, since the laws up here could hold them criminally liable if there actually was abuse going on and they didn’t report it. Better to play it safe and let the CAS make the call on what’s going on, and the Principal can then effectively wash his hands of the situation.

    The problem is that there is such an emphasis on protecting children from abuse that common sense has gone out the window in situations like these.

    While nobody would ever suggest that we should not do our utmost to protect children from domestic violence and sexual abuse, the pendulum has swung so far in the opposite direction that there are those who look for pedophiles and molesters around every corner.

  20. Headline is wrong and completely sensationalist. CAS was called, made the required investigative visit, and closed the file because they concluded that the accusation was ridiculous.

    The principal was probably just covering his ass as required by law – no fault there. Although having lost the kid several times, to the point where the mother felt she needed a GPS/audio recorder to keep her safe even though she couldn’t afford it – THAT is something to fire everyone who was supposed to be responsible for the kid over, especially the gullible educational assistant.

    The psychic was a lying fake, and deserves to be arrested for *something* – who knows if she’s gotten anyone else falsely accused? – though I’m not entirely sure what they can get her on. Fraud? I don’t think she’s legally guilty of defamation, as there was no one in the age range to hold responsible.

    Concerning the range of ability with autism – a kid who’s still nonverbal and acting out sexually at 11 isn’t exactly going to be going to college. She would almost certainly do better with the IBI treatment, and the mother is right to want her given appropriate treatment and at least a different school. But asking the *school board* to pay for a $50k/year treatment isn’t going to do anything but stress a budget which is probably already short – to spend that much on any one kid hurts their ability to educate all the others, and is thus not a good solution. All the board should have to do is fire the idiots and move the kid to a different school, while IBI ought to be paid for by Medicare/Medicaid or some other government agency which provides medical assistance, not through the school board.

  21. #11

    Have you ever noticed that those claiming to be eugenecists (however dilettante) seem to be pointing their finger at someone else so as if to deflect attention from their own obvious genetic aberrations?

    And, might I ask, #11, what it is exactly that you have contributed to humanity (to date or to be expected) that qualifies your share of air…or at least Boing Boing comment post? No…seriously?

  22. Max is fifteen and trying on ideologies. Hopefully, he’ll try on a less evil one soon.

  23. #29 Ornith. Both OHIP and School board funding have been crippled by an government of an economic ideology, and the funding hasn’t been fixed by the present party who are criticized and hammered if they even think “Tax”.

    IBI funding was covered before, and Previous Government cut it off, stopped cold after the child is aged six. A citizen’s lawsuit to restore the funding was defeated, opposed by the present government.

    The people of the province are sympathetic to the individual cases of autistic children, but nobody wants to fund IBI with their taxes.

    Even as all special needs children – yes the handicapped, and the gifted – are expected to be integrated into the regular classroom, there is no extra funding for EA’s, and there is very tight funding and very restrictive funding guidelines that school boards must adhere to. They have also had their local tax levy powers stripped away in the interests of “more equitable funding” and greater centralization.

    If the board moved the kid to a different school, the funding, care and IBI problem wouldn’t go away. Yes, the IBI *should* be covered by OHIP or something. It ain’t.

    Any IBI therapist would have known this particular child, and a half-dozen different agents/agencies with no experience would not have had to ever been involved.

  24. from #23 above, Liz Ditz writes,
    “Intensive behavioral intervention can help persons with autism able to interact, reducing their own suffering and increasing their personal dignity.”
    This is such an understatement (no offence intended) that I feel compelled to add that if the necessary work is done, for many autistic children the results can be much, much better than just the relief of suffering. But perhaps some of this is captured by your phrase “increasing their personal dignity.” Those interested (or those showing the slightest inclination towards

    And from #27 above, Ornith writes:
    “Concerning the range of ability with autism – a kid who’s still nonverbal and acting out sexually at 11 isn’t exactly going to be going to college.”

    Hmmm… predicting the future, are you? By what superior method of divination, that allows you to think yourself above psychics?

  25. …apologies, a sentence was left unfinished in my last post – it should read:

    The curious (or those showing the slightest inclination toward eugenics) should follow Takuan’s link in #21 above.

  26. I swear by alectryomancy, divination by cocks pecking at lettered grain. But skatharomancy, divination by beetle tracks on the grave of a murder victim is a great second choice.

  27. Well, maybe I should be embarassed by it, but I have a deck of Tarot cards. I couldn’t resist them; the art is very beautiful. Quite like a favorite picture book.

  28. nothing wrong with using the ancient and archetypal images of the Tarot in all its various incarnations as an aid to meditation, stimulus to the imagination
    or just as entertainment. The pictures are OLD. They survive for a reason. Divination is another matter altogether.

  29. Although my deck is quite fun to look at I haven’t recommended it or the illustrator by name; it is sold quite explicitly as a neopagan tool and as much fun as I’ve had in neopagan company, it too is religion.

    To Kickyfast re: #31 above: that’s how I felt about an earlier post – the school in Oceanside that had the CHP officers lie to the kids.

  30. BTW, EA’s, though employed full-time are every often employed half time across a couple of schools, and even as they are assigned to a single special needs student, they are often pulled to help with other cases.

    EA’s are also not IBI therapists.

  31. maybe I should be embarrassed by it, but I have a deck of Tarot cards.

    Why? The Tarot works quite well if you understand how it functions. A fully pictorial deck triggers the release of material from your sub/unconscious mind so that you can examine it consciously. You don’t have to believe in magic to use the Tarot as a tool of self-exploration.

  32. @10, who said: “Why does education and psychology attract the most intellectually weak and unstable students in university?”

    I believe you meant, “Why *do* education and psychology attract…”

    Judge not, etc.

  33. Incidentally, there’s been a follow-up story:

    The nut of it is that the school board has not offered any kind of apology, admitting only that “the issue could have been handled better, but … under the law they had to file a report regardless of the source. ”

    To be fair, I was discussing this with a family member who is a former Children’s Aid Worker, and she pointed out that the requirement for reporting and the follow-up is based on the idea that the psychic could actually know something based on tangible evidence, but gave the information as a “psychic prediction” for fear of her own safety or somesuch. In that sense, the issue is treated the same as an anonymous phone call to the principal would have been. The legal requirement to report to Children’s Aid is incontrovertible in this case, and the school could be held criminally liable if they failed to report.

    As absurd as it may sound, the idea here is that it’s up to any youth worker to report everything and then allow the (supposedly-qualified) Children’s Aid workers to make the final judgement call.

  34. @35: You know, if you leave out the major arcana (and the page cards from the minor arcana) then you can use the rest of the deck for something genuinely entertaining like playing rummy.

    BTW, I agree that the Rider-Waite deck has a certain fascinating appeal to it (but consider that to reflect something about human nature rather than any deeper truths about the cosmos). I once read through a book in the library about the Salvador Dali Tarot deck. Lots of mystical and/or Freudian mumbo-jumbo in the discussion, but the images were really something.

  35. This kind of thing happens often enough through the “trained professional”. Some years ago I saw a special on television, may have been A&E Investigative Reports, I do no remember now. It began with a young woman who, under hypnosis, discovered the had been the victim of her parents an the satanic cult they belonged. She had been pregnant several times during her childhood, the children used in satanic ritual. When she ran away she had been caught and her legs broken. All of this took place in the basement under their house in Santa Monica, CA. Her father was arrested when she took her story to the police. It seemed unbelievable. And it was, detail by detail her story was proven untrue and the source of the wild tale seemed to be her therapist. The tapes of her sessions were given to the police and one can easily hear the therapist leading her, under hypnosis, providing for her the answers she is not coming up with “Are they wearing black hoods? How many people are there? Are there thirteen? I knew it, A COVEN!” The program next explored a case in, was it Bakersfield? A neighbor dispute lead the accusations of sexual abuse and torture of a neighbors children that had the parents and then several other members of the neighborhood accused and arrested until the children named the chief of police and (was it?) the mayor, all under the guidance of professional psychologists and therapists. Again the physical aspects of the case were found to not exist at all. There was a case of a group of counselors and therapists in the Great lakes area who began a massive deprogramming of the local women when it was found they had all been inducted, under hypnosis, into a cult. It seems they had been given a hypnotic suggestion and that one day a man would call and say a certain word and they would then fall into the hypnotic trance and kill their family and then go to the secret meeting place. The health insurance companies involved broke this up and the hearings on the situation (seen in this program) would cause anyone to fear about the general intelligence of modern man. The show also addressed the McMartin case and others in which the evidence of professionals, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and counselors, were the primary evidence. There were others and I have read of since seeing this program. It happens all too often.

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