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Retired teacher convicted of historical sexual assaults apologizes to victims

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Disclaimer: Details in this article may be triggering for some readers.

Lawrence Fritz appeared in a Newmarket courtroom more than two months after pleading guilty to five counts of inappropriately touching students in the 1970s, 80s and 90s while teaching at schools across York Region.

One woman addressed Fritz while giving her victim impact statement, asking, "Why me? Why did I deserve this?"

His victims described decades of trauma, depression, feeling shame and guilt and struggling to understand why their teacher would prey upon them.

The 75-year-old, whom police in York Region said was last working as a supply teacher until retiring in 2020, was charged two years ago.

The court heard the disturbing pattern of behaviour began in 1977.

The Crown read the Agreed Statement of Facts describing several assaults over the next few years.

Fritz, while teaching kids in grades three and four, invited female students to his desk at the back of the classroom and proceeded to touch their backsides, rub their backs under their clothes and place his hand between one girl's legs.

The court heard the assaults happened several times throughout the school year.

York police launched the investigation in 2021 after three female victims reported sexual offences, and one male victim reported a physical assault.

The court heard the assaults involved girls who were eight and nine years old in Nobleton and Thornhill between 1977 and 1983 and a boy who was in the sixth grade in Richmond Hill in the early '90s.

Fritz was arrested in early 2022 and charged with three counts of gross indecency, three counts of indecent assault, forcible confinement and assault with intent.

At the time Fritz was charged, investigators believed there may have been more victims and encouraged anyone with information to come forward.

In January, Justice Cary Boswell accepted Fritz's guilty plea to three counts of indecent assault, one count of gross indecency and the assault of the young boy in the early 90s when the court heard Fritz angrily shove the child into a wall of a washroom; knocking the student to the ground.

On Friday, Fritz addressed the court, apologizing to his victims, saying, "I want to acknowledge the extraordinary courage of my former students."

"I am totally ashamed of what I did," he said. "I accept full responsibility."

The defence requested Fritz receive a conditional sentence, including house arrest and sexual offender counselling, and orders not to be allowed around children under 16.

The Crown is seeking four years in jail, arguing Fritz abused his position and trust as a teacher of young, vulnerable children.

Sentencing is scheduled for June.

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