Parents lose defamation lawsuit, ordered to pay $235,000 to teacher
The parents of a former Roslyn Elementary school student have been ordered to pay $235,000 for wrecking the reputation of their son's teacher.
The legal battle began in 2004, when then-nine-year-old Mathew Artinian told his parents that his teacher, Mary Kanavaros, had humiliated him in front of his classmates.
Toward the end of the school year the boy's parents, Hagop Artinian and Kathryn Rosenstein, sued Kanavaros, Rosyln Elementary, and the English Montreal School Board for $155,000.
Even though Kanavaros wanted to fight the battle, in 2008 the EMSB decided to settle the case out of court in exchange for all parties agreeing not to discuss the terms of the settlement.
Artinian and Rosenstein agreed to the settlement, but immediately after the pair spoke to media and made numerous remarks that were extremely critical of Kanavaros, making it seem like they were right and Kanavaros was wrong all along.
Teacher launched $500,000 lawsuit
Kanavaros took offense at those comments, and decided to sue Artinian and Rosenstein for defamation of character.
A judge heard the case, and in July agreed with Kanavaros that the boy had never been humiliated and that the parents had overreacted to their son's treatment in her class.
In particular, Justice Richer noted that the parents' comments made national headlines, appearing in newspapers across the country and on radio and TV stations everywhere except the Maritimes.
In her judgment, Justice Richer went so far as to question the parenting skills of Artinian and Rosenstein.
After listening to the case carefully and hearing both arguments, the judge ordered Artinian and Rosenstein to pay Kanavaros $210,000, plus $25,000 in punitive damages.
The parents are appealing the decision.
'I think they will have learned a lesson'
The Teachers Union is saying it was right all along, and that parents can only go so far when criticizing teachers.
"I'm all for us taking the appropriate care for the students," said Ruth Rosenfield of the Montreal Teachers Association. "I don't think anyone should be a bully teacher, that's wrong. But at the same time, don't bully teachers, and that's what these parents, I think, were doing, and I think they will have learned a lesson."
Kanavaros has been unable to work for several years, but told CTV that she is grateful for the verdict in her favour, and hopes she finally gets some closure.
She also said she feels the verdict is important because many teachers are terrified by parents, and that this decision sets things back to where the teacher is the authority in the class and the principal is the authority in the school.
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