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'That's a nice Halloween costume': BC teacher who 'mocked' Muslim student's hijab is reprimanded

A British Columbia teacher has been formally reprimanded after he “mocked” a Muslim girl’s headdress in class.

Donald Joseph Camozzi “failed to respect and value diversity,” the BC Commissioner for Teacher Regulation said.

It ruled that his actions constituted professional misconduct.

Camozzi was a teacher on call for a Grade 10 class in Surrey on Nov. 1, 2022 when the incident occurred, according to the Commissioner.

He asked the Muslim girl if she had gone trick or treating, but she told him she does not observe Halloween, which is a Christian festival.

<who> Photo credit: 123RF </who> A stock image showing a woman wearing a headdress.

Comozzi then told her: “That’s a nice Halloween costume; mine is better than yours.”

The girl responded by telling Comozzi that she was not wearing a costume, but Comozzi repeated that his costume was better than hers, pointing towards her hijab.

The hijab is an Islamic headdress for women and girls that is strongly associated with the concept of female modesty.

After his “costume” remarks, the girl told the teacher to stop “as it was not funny,” while another student remarked that it was funny, prompting Camozzi to say: “[That student] finds it funny.”

“Word of this incident spread in the school and was being discussed by students in another class,” the Commissioner’s report explains.

In December, Comozzi was disciplined by his school district (36) and recommended “cultural sensitivity training,” which he has not undertaken.

At the end of last year, the Commissioner looked at Comozzi’s case.

In a report released this week, the regulator reprimanded the teacher and mandated that he take a course titled “Creating a Positive Learning Environment.”

If he does not take the course, his teaching licence will be suspended.

“Camozzi failed to respect and value diversity in the classroom and failed to appreciate the importance and connection of cultural sensitivity to the development of students,” the report says.

“Camozzi failed to be a proper role model and uphold the diversity, equity and inclusion objectives of the district.

“Camozzi's conduct had a negative impact on both the student whose hijab he mocked, those present and those who later learned of his conduct.”

It adds: “Camozzi has engaged in similar conduct in the past and he has still not completed the district's recommended cultural sensitivity course through the STA and the BCTF.”

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