When did “My psychic told me” become “reasonable grounds”?
The law in Ontario requires that people in a position of care for children (eg. school personnel) are required to call in the Children’s Aid Society, if they have “reasonable grounds” to believe a child is being abused. The CAS in turn is required to act on all such reports and make an investigation of the case. So when the staff at Terry Fox Elementary School in Barrie decided they had reasonable grounds to believe that Victoria Leduc, an 11-year-old student with autism, was being sexually abused, they did what they were legally obliged to do: called the CAS, and informed Victoria’s mother Colleen. The CAS did what they are required to do: came to the Leduc home and interviewed Victoria’s mother. Happily, the case-worker quickly determined that it was a false alarm and closed the file: Victoria was not being abused
So what did the school’s “reasonable grounds” consist of? There seem to have been two. Victoria had apparently been displaying sexualized behaviour – normally, this might be an indication of abuse, however, this sort of age-inappropriate sexualization often occurs in autistic adolescents, who have difficulty comprehending conventional social restraints. However, the other one, the trigger that first moved the school administration to construct the abuse theory was this: Victoria’s educational assistant had been told by her psychic that a child in her care whose name started with ‘V’ was being abused by a man in his early 20’s.
That’s it: “My psychic told me”.
I’d love to see a court rule on whether that constitutes “reasonable grounds”. That’s about as “reasonable” as if I went to a school yard at recess, closed my eyes and pointed to some kid at random, and told the school to send the CAS round to investigate the family. Why not? I’m every bit as psychic as Victoria’s teacher’s soothsayer. If they believed her, they should believe me.
While the CAS quickly exonerated the Leduc family, and determined that the “man in his 20’s” was non-existent, I don’t accept that this represents a case of no harm, no foul. Consider that a no doubt overworked case-worker (who called the allegation “ridiculous”) had to waste time on this snipe hunt. And just imagine the potentially life-destroying harm that would have been done to any unfortunate young man in his 20s who just happened to be associated with the Leduc family. Then there is the emotional toll on Colleen Leduc, and the fact that she no longer trusts the school to meet her daughter’s needs, so she has withdrawn Victoria and is teaching her at home — which means she can no longer work. And perhaps worst, there is the apparent endorsement, by those in charge of children’s education, of the fraud that is psychic reading.
Believing psychics is never a good idea. And when the authorities believe them, and act on their pronouncements, it can do active harm. I hope that someone in the Simcoe CAS or school board has the sense to issue a guideline making clear that “reasonable grounds” for suspecting child abuse do not include “My psychic told me”.
Other cases of harm caused by psychics