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BC teacher suspended after reaching into student's tool pouch for measuring tape

A British Columbia teacher has been suspended after reaching into one of his student’s tool pouches without asking permission.

Darrin James Ponak, who teaches in Langley, “failed to appreciate the emotional and physical impact of his inappropriate invasion” of the student’s personal space, the BC Commissioner for Teacher Regulation said.

The Grade 12 student reported feeling “very uncomfortable” during the interaction, the Commissioner's report, which was released this week, explains.

It adds: “[The student] could feel Ponak’s hand close to their groin area when Ponak retrieved the measuring tape.”

The incident occurred on March 4, 2020 during an applied mathematics class in a woodshop, where the students were building a mock shed with electrical wiring.

<who> Photo credit: 123RF

“Student A was installing electrical boxes with a classmate, and Ponak wanted to double-check the measurements the students had made,” the report says.

“Ponak asked the students for a measuring tape and when neither responded, he reached into Student A’s leather tool pouch and retrieved one. Ponak did not ask Student A’s permission before reaching into the tool pouch.”

The teacher was disciplined by the school district on May 21.

According to the district, Ponak had previously been warned – in 2010 – that a “teacher cannot put their hands on students in a manner that a reasonable person would consider as inappropriate.”

He was also been reprimanded in 2017 “following allegations that he made inappropriate comments to students” and had “unnecessary physical contact with a student.”

On that occasion, Ponak “was reminded of the district’s expectation that teachers exercise an appropriate duty of care towards students which takes into consideration their emotional and physical safety concerns.”

The 2020 incident was later dealt with by the Commissioner, which determined that Ponak's actions constituted professional misconduct.

He will serve a suspension of his certificate of qualification on Jan. 21, 2022.

He must also complete the “Reinforcing Respectful Professional Boundaries” course with the Justice Institute.

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