N.S. teacher facing sex charges connected to popular memorial soccer tournament
Published Sunday, March 13, 2016 6:25PM ADT
Last Updated Sunday, March 13, 2016 9:26PM ADT
CTV News has learned a Halifax-area junior high school teacher facing sexual assault charges lost her mother and sister in a car accident, prompting the creation of a widely-renowned memorial soccer tournament.
Sarah Allt Harnish, 36, lost her mother, Sheila Allt, and her sister, Stephenie Allt, in a single-vehicle crash off Highway 103 in October 2002.
The pair was returning from a soccer game when they lost control on the rain-slicked road.
"To my sister it meant the world - it meant everything,” said Allt Harnish in a YouTube video. “That's what she lived, breathed, everything for - she wanted to play (soccer) all the time."
"To my mom, it's her passion it's what she wanted to do with her family, it's how she brought everyone together, that's where she made her friends - so it meant everything.”
Stephenie's grief-stricken friends created the Sheila and Stephenie Allt Memorial Soccer Tournament in their honour. Fourteen years later, it's still going strong.
"It's a great cause and it's an excellent tournament,” said soccer coach Craig Berryman. “It's well-run and lots of teams come out to play."
Charges against Sarah Allt Harnish were laid on Friday. The Five Bridges Junior High School teacher is accused of sexual assault and sexual interference involving a student at the school.
Officers say they were notified of inappropriate contact with the student on Feb. 5. They've declined to say where the alleged incident took place.
The Sheila and Stephenie Memorial Soccer Tournament has grown over the years. Several people in the local soccer community are well-aware of Sarah Allt Harnish's connection to the event, but very few are willing to talk about it.
Organizers of the tournament are also staying tight-lipped, refusing to confirm if this year's event will go on.
However, posters advertising it are on display.
"I'm going to register for the tournament this year,” said Berryman. “I think all the girls will have a lot of fun. Last year they had bouncy castles, it was a great tournament so I'm looking forward to that."
The president of the Halifax United Soccer Club confirmed on Saturday that Harnish coached and served on the board for the organization, but voluntarily stepped down from both positions.
“The charges brought against Ms. Allt Harnish relate to her position as a teacher at Five Bridges Junior High and do not involve HCU and our players," said Halifax County United Soccer Club in a statement. "However, given the nature of the charges, effective immediately, Ms. Allt Harnish has stepped down from her coaching and Board responsibilities with HCU."
Harnish has been released from police custody on conditions including no contact with the victim or other persons under the age of 16, and she is to remain away from schools and other places frequented by children.
Harnish is scheduled to appear in Halifax provincial court on May 3 to face the charges - 17 days before the start of the soccer tournament in honour of her mother and sister.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Suzette Belliveau.