An alleged bureaucratic mixup by the Okanagan Skaha School District led to an admitted sex offender being listed as the custodial parent of a Penticton teen.
Now the biological father wants them to be held accountable. The man, whose name we have changed to Jones to protect the identity of his son, alleges the teen was befriended by Rene Marc Burke for the intention of being exploited. Jones said grooming tactics of making booze, cigarettes and partying available to the teen were used by Burke.
“He told my son he was a millionaire and he was going to inherit everything,” said the dad.
Burke has since pleaded guilty to charges of fear of a sexual offence in respect of a person under 14, touching a younger person for a sexual purpose and two breaches. Charges that all stem from contact with the teen. Burke appeared in court on Wednesday but the details of the charges have not been laid out in court yet, as the man’s sentencing was adjourned to another day.
Jones said the 56-year-old Burke was a complete stranger to him. He said he first learned of Burke after finding out his son had arranged to transfer high schools in August 2011.
Jones went into the School District 67 office looking for answers and was told the application had been filled out by Burke, who signed off as the parent/guardian. Jones showed his driver’s licence and demanded a copy of the file, but said the staff person denied him.
He said he was told he would have to prove that he was the custodial parent. Half an hour after this exchange Jones returned to the school district office with custody papers, child tax credit papers for the previous year and his son’s name on papers addressed to him. He said he was denied again.
“I told them I wanted the information to give to police to protect my kid.”
He alleges a school district official informed him that a criminal background check would have to be done on both him and Burke in order to ensure the teen’s safety.
“The school district warns parents about little Timmy walking home in the park and a stranger says ‘Hi’ to him, meanwhile they have got a parent right in front of them in their office saying a strange guy is trying to transfer my kid to a new school and they don’t do anything,” said Jones. “This man was a complete stranger to me.”
After doing some of his own investigation work, Jones said he filed a complaint with RCMP and then a restraining order on Burke, who was arrested on Oct. 21, 2011 and has been behind bars since.
The dad then filed a small claims action against School District 67, and on Wednesday he told the Western News he was waiting for the conclusion of Burke’s criminal proceedings before setting a date for small claims court.
“All I want is a letter of apology and a small monetary penalty to penalize them and hold them accountable,” said Jones, who added he would use the money to help with his son’s rehabilitation, saying the teen has psychological problems from what Burke has done.
“These are people put in place that you are supposed to trust with your kids. I think they should all be fired or removed.”
The school district was contacted and assistant superintendent Dave Burgoyne said they do not make comments on cases that are currently before the courts.
Burke was not sentenced on Wednesday, he is seeking enhanced credit because of delays and medical conditions — the specifics of which were not laid out in court. Using crutches as he walked into the prisoner’s box, Burke kept his eyes and head low during the short proceedings.