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What Would You Do?

By law, cases under investigation are confidential. For the education of members, the following accounts, based on facts from real cases, raise important questions about teacher conduct, such as what is appropriate and what is not. Details have been altered to respect confidentiality.

The College received a complaint regarding Samantha, a high school teacher. It was alleged that she:

  • threw a ukulele across the class;
  • called a student “dumb”; and
  • forcibly pushed a student’s finger into the string of a ukulele.

Samantha denied throwing the ukulele across the classroom. She recalled that one day during class students were shouting and not paying attention. She removed a ukulele from a student’s hands, walked back to the front of the class and dropped the instrument on the floor.

Samantha said she did so to get the student’s attention, but regretted that she did not respond differently.

She then gave a warning to the student who was continuing to disturb the group by singing and shouting.

Because of the student’s disruptive behaviour, Samantha said that she may have told her to “stop being dumb.”

She denied that she forcefully pushed the student’s finger into the string of a ukulele. She explained that she used to place students’ fingers correctly on the strings as a part of her teaching practice, but that she had stopped after her school board raised concerns over this practice.

The board conducted an investigation and decided to discipline Samantha, who admitted that she now recognized the importance of using appropriate classroom management strategies to prevent this type of behaviour from escalating.

If you were a member of the Investigation Committee panel, what would you have issued to this teacher:

  • an admonishment in person (most severe)
  • a written admonishment
  • a written caution
  • written advice
  • a written reminder
  • take no action (least severe)

The outcome

The Investigation Committee panel reviewed the parties’ submissions and noted contradictory information pertaining to the first allegation. With regard to the second allegation, the panel stated that calling the student “dumb” was disrespectful, and decided to admonish her in writing for these two actions.

The panel also noted that because Samantha had altered her teaching practice with regard to the placement of students’ fingers on the ukulele strings, there was no need to take further action regarding this allegation.

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