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A British Columbia teacher has been suspended for touching her students, bringing a “homophobic” relative into school and failing to wear a mask during the pandemic.
Sharon Louise Heath also said males from a specific ethnic group were “rude and disrespectful” and told a student she hoped they failed.
The BC Commissioner for Teacher Regulation said the incidents involving Heath occurred between 2020 and 2022.
According to a report published by the regulator late last month, Heath, while teaching drama, made her students feel uncomfortable by “patting them on the back, hugging cast members, or redirecting them physically when working on scenes.”
She also shared a “significant amount of personal experiences from her youth” with her students, including that one of her family members was “homophobic.”
“On one occasion, Heath brought this family member to Theatre Company Club to assist in painting the stage,” the Commissioner’s report explains.
Not only was the relative’s presence a breach of COVID-19 restrictions, the report states, but it also made LGBT students feel “uncomfortable and unsafe knowing that this relative was homophobic.”
The report also says Heath “failed to consistently wear a mask” at school despite being required to do so by a public health order.
She was suspended without pay for two days by her school district – which is in Surrey – for the above actions, and made to complete a course on boundaries.
In separate incidents occurring in the fall of 2022, Heath told a student in her Grade 10 life education class she hoped they failed.
The comment was made “out of frustration,” the report explains.
She also told a “group of disruptive students” – including the same student – that “if she could, she would kick them out of her class.”
“This comment was made in the class, during class time, where it might have been overheard by the students' classmates,” the report states.
The student “reported feeling sad” that Heath wanted them “to fail and get kicked out of the class.”
Heath also told the class it was her “nightmare class.”
In another incident, Heath told the school vice principal, in relation to a group of disruptive students, that “males of [a certain] ethnic background are rude and disrespectful.”
“The vice principal to whom Heath made this comment was of the same ethnic background as the students in question,” the report adds.
In connection to these incidents, Heath was again suspended without pay, this time for three days.
She also had to complete an anti-racism workshop.
According to the report, Heath had previously been warned about “making offensive hand gestures, regardless of frustration levels” and reminded that teachers should “refrain from physical contact with our students unless absolutely necessary."
The Commissioner, in reviewing Heath’s behaviour, determined that she had committed professional misconduct.
It also issued her with a reprimand, explaining: “Heath failed to create a positive learning environment for her students. [She] had previously been reminded about the importance of treating students in a respectful manner and to refrain from physical contact unless absolutely necessary.”