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Reprimanded SD62 teacher compelled to take cultural sensitivity training

Cultural sensitivity training is in the future for one Sooke School District teacher as part of discipline handed down for remarks made at Edward Milne secondary in Sooke.

“This is very out of character for all of our employees,” said District superintendent Jim Cambridge.

When asked if the matter had been dealt with to the satisfaction of the District, he said, “we wish the issue had never occurred.”

In mid-December of last year, Matthew Shaun Pell signed a consent resolution agreement with the British Columbia Commissioner for Teacher Regulations agreeing to a reprimand under the Teachers Act.

In 2014, when Pell was teaching a Grade 11 math class at Edward Milne community school in Sooke, he repeatedly referred to a student, whose family background is Middle Eastern and Muslim, as “Taliban.”

The consent resolution agreement states that he would also “make comments such as ‘don’t make her angry otherwise she’ll bomb you’ or ‘she’s going to blow everything up.’”

Those comments reportedly made the student and her classmates feel very uncomfortable.

In May 2015 the District issued Pell a warning letter in respect to this conduct and in June the District made a report to the Commissioner regarding Pell. Cambridge said as soon it was brought to the District’s attention, action was taken. “It’s particularly intolerable in the public school setting.”

The District has a zero tolerance policy towards racism in its schools, but Cambridge noted individuals are disciplined differently and factors such as repeat offences are considered. He could not disclose whether Pell, who now teaches at Royal Bay secondary, has had any previous complaints against him.

As outlined in the resolution agreement, Pell must successfully complete the course “Building Cultural Intelligence in Your Workplace,” through the Justice Institute of B.C. by June 30. If he fails to do so, his certificate of qualification may be suspended.

Sooke Teachers Association president Ian Johnson said in a statement that Pell has “admitted his error and acknowledges that his behaviour was inappropriate.” Johnson added that Pell has agreed to fulfill the Teacher Regulation Branch’s expectation that he enrol in a cultural sensitivity course.

“The Sooke Teachers’ Association expects members to treat all students with respect and dignity,” Johnson stated. “There is no place for racism or discrimination of any kind in our inclusive schools.”

katie@goldstreamgazette.com

Katherine Engqvist

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