By Emily Kroeker, DiscoverEstevan.com
A former Estevan high school teacher who used a fake Facebook profile to lure students has been sentenced to five years in jail for sexual assault.
Troy Ruzicka, the former auto body teacher at Estevan Comprehensive School (ECS), pleaded guilty Monday to sexual assault and sexual touching while in a position of trust along with other charges.
Ruzicka, who was accompanied by his mother and sister in court, listened as the Crown outlined the joint proposal with the defence and then read the statement of facts.
Along with details of how Ruzicka used his position at the school to lure students, it was also revealed he did so using a fake Facebook profile — often messaging the students while at school.
The investigation began after allegations of inappropriate conduct were made to the Southeast Cornerstone School Division (SECSD) concerning a teaching staff member at ECS on Feb. 8.
There were four victim impact statements submitted to court. The first was read by a victim support worker, the second by a victim, the third by the mother of one of the victims and the fourth was filed with the court and not read aloud.
Due to a publication ban, the names and ages of the victims will not be released.
The victims spoke about the betrayal they felt at the hands of their former teacher, a person they trusted. They also talked about the resulting damage and impact the assaults have had on their lives. One victim’s mother spoke through tears about the damage Ruzicka caused not only to her daughter, but her entire family.
The defence also had an opportunity to speak on behalf of Ruzicka.
Several letters of reference from friends and community members were submitted on his behalf detailing how the incidences were out of character for the person they knew. They also spoke about how he seemed depressed and withdrawn during this time.
Ruzicka read a short statement apologizing for his actions and expressing his deep regret.
After considering the joint statement, the judge decided to accept the proposal of five years in a penitentiary.
In the decision, the judge expressed that Ruzicka knowingly targeted vulnerable students he knew he could exploit. He shared that the amount of planning involved, Ruzicka’s position as a teacher and the number of victims were all contributing factors to the sentence.
However, in the pre-sentence report, the judge noted Ruzicka was found to be at a low risk to re-offend. The former teacher also took responsibility in entering a guilty plea, which spares the victims — and the community — a lengthy trial.
It was also noted that Ruzicka has reached out for counselling, and plans to seek treatment while incarcerated.
After completing his five years behind bars, Ruzicka will be prohibited from possessing firearms for 10 years. He will be placed on the sexual offenders’ registry for 20 years.
Additionally, there were other conditions set in place for eight years including having no contact with his victims, and not to be in a place where children under 16 years of age would likely be — such as a playground or daycare.
Ruzicka will not be allowed to work or volunteer with children under 16 years of age, and his internet use will be restricted in relation to contacting those under 16. He is also prohibited from using social media platforms such as Facebook.