Kelowna music teacher denies inappropriate touching in sexual assault trial
A Kelowna, BC music teacher told a provincial court judge that he only corrected a young student’s posture while they sat together on a piano bench in his home and denied ever touching the child in an inappropriate way.
Neil No-No Wong, 55, made the interviewed statements while taking the witness stand on Friday morning, the second day of his trial on charges of sexual assault and sexual interference.
Wong has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
On Thursday, the alleged victim, a child to whom Wong gave weekly piano lessons for a period of about eight months in 2021, told the court Wong inappropriately touched her several times during private lessons.
CBC News is not releasing the child’s gender or age to protect his identity.
Wong denied the allegations under questioning of Crown Counsel and Defense Counsel on the witness stand.
Wong told the court in April 2022 that he had a client base of 25 piano students, which quickly dwindled to just two after the RCMP announced criminal charges against him.
He told the court he had a total of 27 lessons with the child, which ended abruptly when the student’s father texted him in January 2022 that the child no longer wanted to study the piano.
Student initiated hugs, the court said
Wong read him the father’s final text in court, which read in part, “We appreciate your time and effort over the past few months and wish you all the best.”
Wong said he replied to the father that he was shocked that the child had made such good progress in playing.
Under cross-examination, QC Murray Kaay suggested Wong inappropriately touched the child when they hugged during or after class.
“[They] initiated a hug and I responded in much the same way most adults would by hugging the child back,” Wong said, denying the contact was sexual.
“Again, in my opinion that would not be unreasonable.”
Wong testified that he spoke to the child’s father after the student hugged him during their first piano lesson because he felt uncomfortable doing so.
Wong said the father assured him the hug was okay.
“That’s how they were as a family. That’s how they greeted each other,” Wong said. “I accepted that as pretty normal behavior in the family.”
According to Wong, the student initiated hugs with him about a dozen times over the eight months of classes.
Kaay asked Wong about his previous experience as a public education teacher and the concept of educators respecting students’ physical limitations.
“In general, teachers try to avoid physical contact with their students, right?” Kai asked.
“For fear of accusations like this,” Wong replied.
accusation of voyeurism
What was not discussed in this process is Wong’s departure from public education.
While working as a music teacher at a Kelowna high school, Wong was charged with voyeurism by a student and sentenced to an 18-month parole.
Wong was suspended from School District 23 in 2013 and resigned from his position in 2015, according to a teacher regulation document.
In 2016, Wong agreed to have his teaching certificate annulled, the decision said.
The trial will continue next week, with the Crown expected to call the child’s father to the witness stand.