A child who has been out of school for over a month is back in class after a months-long dispute between the child’s mother and forces in the school district – a battle that is still ongoing.
The parent, who will remain unnamed to protect the identity of the child, pulled her two children out of a Terrace school following what she alleges is bullying, teacher misconduct, and mismanagement by the school’s administrators.
The trouble started in September when the parent alleges a teacher maltreated her child after an incident with another student. She raised her concerns to the school’s administrators and met with officials at the Coast Mountains School District (CMSD), who attempted to remedy her concerns via a series of meetings and action-plans directed at improving how the child felt at school.
But the mother was not satisfied with the response, saying her child no longer felt safe and needed to change schools.
Her child has a history of behavioural issues that had been improving significantly over the last few years, she said. But the alleged incident with the teacher and incidents at the school in the weeks that followed acted like a turning point, reversing the child’s progress, she said.
“He cries very easy,” she said, noting this was normal behaviour a couple of years ago, but had stopped after sessions with a child psychologist. “Those behaviours have started up again.”
And so she pulled her two children out of school on Oct. 31 and continued to lobby for a school change. She also attempted to enroll her children in private school.
But changing schools in the district mid-year is not always easy, especially for children who require extra help, as staffing requirements and class-composition have already been established.
“The government has cleared that students can attend any school in the district, as long as there is room,” said Dave Bartley, director of instruction, learner support for the school district.
‘Room’ involves the number of children in the classroom, but also classroom composition, he said.
“Our job is to try to make sure we have students in the appropriate program. We often have parents who want their children to attend different schools, different classrooms, and to the degree that we’re able to accommodate that, we do,” he said, noting that the district fulfilled its responsibilities in providing an educational program for the students in question. “The parent [chose] for them not to attend that school.”
But earlier this month the school board made good on its efforts to find another school for the child, although the child’s younger sibling will be home-schooled until other arrangements can be made in the new year.
“We’re going to give it a try, see how [my child] does there. Hopefully it will work out better,” said the mother, of the new school. “We met with the principal and the vice-principal and it looks like it will work … [my child] seems very happy there.”
But the mother’s fight is not over. She has filed a complaint with the Ministry of Education about her and her child’s experience with the former-teacher, is gathering letters of support from other parents and members of the community, and is considering filing a civil suit.
“I do have a lawyer now, but I can’t meet with her until January,” she said, noting it has taken time to find people to help her. “I finally feel like I’m getting somewhere will all of this.”
The branch of the Ministry that deals with teacher-misconduct is the Teacher Regulation Branch (TRB). The TRB Commissioner, an independent statutory decision-maker, reviews each complaint or report regarding the conduct or competence of a certificate holder and decides which process will be used to deal with each report or complaint made under the Teachers Act. According to the ministry, the regulating body average about 36 complaints a year.
The CMSD is unable to comment on the alleged misconduct, citing privacy issues. The teacher is currently on a leave of absence from the school.
The parent says she has also received a letter from the district stating she is not allowed on district property, but says she will be fighting this as well.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article stated the teacher was no longer teaching at the school. This has since been corrected.