Most of the five hour Halton District School Board meeting Wednesday was devoted to discussing the proposed code of conduct that is hoped will address the ongoing controversy around the teacher who has been the subject of international media attention for wearing a pair of plus-size prosthetic breasts in class. What was not discussed, at the meeting was the fact that the teacher in question had already been sent home on paid leave.
The Toronto Sun broke that news and a spokesperson for the school board confirmed to the Bay Observer that “While not currently on an active assignment, the teacher remains employed with the HDSB. We continue to support the teacher in partnership with OSSTF.”
At the meeting at least one delegate told the board that according to their reading of existing regulations and the Education Act that the Board has the ability to impose professional standards including a dress code for teachers even though the teachers are working without a contract. But HR superintendent Sari Taha stuck to his contention that it would be illegal to make changes in working conditions while teachers are effectively without a collective agreement.
Still Education Minister Stephen Lecce, who is also familiar with the Act said last week that the board had abdicated its responsibility by failing to move more quickly on the matter.
Staff told trustees that a survey on professional standards that was posted for public comment has already garnered over 4,500 responses and will no doubt attract thousands more before it comes off the board’s website on March 10. The results of that survey will be used to shape the professionalism policy, but as one trustee, Naveed Ahmed, pointed out staff should have a pretty good idea what the public thinks by now.
Perhaps showing the strain caused by controversy, Director of Education Curtis Ennis decried the bomb threats that have been received, mainly directed at Oakville Trafalgar School where the teacher in question works. “There have been threats against our schools and our students and our staff…we can disagree but to threaten students and schools is unacceptable. It has not been easy, and in many instances the personal attacks on members of our team, our trustees and staff has been disheartening. I’ve dedicated over 27 years of my life to education and I can tell you that students has always been and continues to be at the heart of everything that I do.”
Anticipating a raucous session, Chair Margo Shuttleworth imposed tight timelines and reminded each delegation to observe rules of decorum, but. As it turned out, the gallery and presenters were well-behaved.
What may have been the game-changer on the decision to remove the teacher from the classroom was an investigative report by the New York Post that showed the teacher dressed as a man and clearly showing that the prosthetic breasts were not real. Neighbours of the teacher were interviewed and told the Post that the teacher appeared more frequently in male garb than the outfit worn to class.
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