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BC teacher's scuffle with Indigenous student 'reflected harmful legacy of residential schools,' regulator says

A British Columbia teacher has been suspended after having a scuffle with an Indigenous student that “reflected the harmful legacy of physical abuse in Indian residential schools.”

The incident occurred during the 2020-21 school year when the student refused to obey verbal instructions to line up for class.

According to a consent agreement the teacher signed with the BC Commissioner for Teacher Regulation, the student had been similarly disobedient on previous occasions.

On the day in question, however, the teacher’s instructions went unheeded, and the student went into the classroom.

The teacher “stood in front” of the student (referred to only as “Student A”) and “made physical contact” with them, causing the student to fall onto the floor.

<who> Photo credit: 123RF

“Student A stood up and moved towards the teacher, who did not move,” the report explains.

“A physical interaction occurred, and as a result, both the teacher and Student A fell to the floor. The teacher was right over top of Student A and restrained Student A on the floor. The teacher repeatedly said ‘stop’ to Student A.”

According to the report, witnesses to the interaction “perceived the teacher to be sitting or kneeling on Student A while Student A was lying on the floor.”

It adds that an educational assistant then came into the classroom and told the teacher to “get off” the student.

In the aftermath of the incident, the teacher was disciplined by his school district and suspended for two days without pay.

The district “reminded the teacher of its expectation to follow district policy and practice regarding student discipline and refrain from using physical force to deal with student misconduct.”

He was also made to apologize to the student’s parents and undergo counselling, mentoring and several courses designed to improve his understanding of Indigenous peoples.

Separately, the teaching regulator handed the teacher a five-day suspension.

It said he was guilty of professional misconduct because he “engaged in an inappropriate physical interaction” with the student.

His behaviour “reflected the harmful legacy of physical abuse in Indian residential schools,” the Commissioner said.

“The actions harmed Student A, negatively impacted the community’s feelings of trust and safety in the education system, and did not contribute towards truth, reconciliation and healing,” it added.

The names of the school, teacher and student have all been withheld from the report “to protect the identity of [the] student who was harmed, abused or exploited by the teacher.”

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