DILDO, NL – A mother and father whose child is currently in his final year at Woodland Elementary in Dildo are glad their son is showing signs of overcoming what they describe as a case of teacher-on-student bullying.
But the family is frustrated by its recent dealings with the Newfoundland and Labrador Eastern School District (NLESD) in attempting to address the issue.
Though the parents preferred to remain anonymous, they spoke with the Compass about their frustration trying to address a problem they say has occurred multiple times in the past, and to children other than their own.
The parents said their son would often come home from school very upset, and after some time explained to them the reason behind the seemingly sudden mood swings – alleged nasty encounters with the boy’s then-homeroom teacher.
“(Our son) told us this teacher even flipped his desk at one point when he couldn’t find one of his worksheets, only to later realize (the sheet) had been on the teacher’s desk the entire time,” the father said. “He would come home, shaken up, because (the teacher) would single him out, humiliate him in front of the class, and constantly give him nasty looks. “There were nights where he would stay up all night crying, not wanting to go to school the next day.”
Although meetings were held between the parents, the teacher and the school’s principal, the parents felt nothing had been accomplished and their son’s feelings about school hardly changed throughout the year.
However, upon finding out it was not just their son who had issues with this teacher in the past, the parents began to notice something of a trend. More parents reached out to them, alleging they too had issues with the same teacher treating their children with disdain.
One mother even removed her daughter from the school with the sole intention of making sure her child no longer had any dealings with this particular teacher.
“(The teacher) is just very full of himself, from what I can see,” said the father, referring to similar stories from other parents in the area. “He likes to feel powerful over these kids and picks on them, singles them out.
“One poor little girl was made to sit in the center of the classroom, in the middle of everybody, for a few days. It isn’t just (our son) that’s seen the teacher act like this.”
The parents decided to take things a step further, with email exchanges and meetings dating back several months between them and different members of the NLESD. As the parents explained to the Compass, several investigations were carried out.
However, through it all, the parents feel as though no real progress has been made and the blame is being put on their child, instead of the teacher.
“A lot of people over at the school board seem to think (our son) is the problem, not this teacher, but that’s just not the case,” said the father. “We’ve seen the proper doctors to understand by now that no, our son does not have a perception problem here.
“There really is a problem here, and when you have five or six people coming forward and saying their kids have had similar problems in the past, I think that speaks for itself. Do all these kids have perception problems too? I highly doubt that.”
While their son is no longer being educated by the teacher, having moved on from the grade in question, his parents say there are still some instances where their son complains of receiving a dirty look from the teacher, or simply feels uncomfortable in his presence. While they are hopeful to see their son move on from the problem when he leaves the school in the coming year to attend junior high, they fear for other children facing similar problems.
“It’s not that we want to see the teacher fired, don’t get me wrong, but we definitely want to see some action taken, and so far, we’ve seen nothing …other than (NLESD) saying there’s been an investigation, but because of all the privacy policies in place, we don’t even know where or what they really investigated at all.
“We don’t know a thing, because they say they can’t tell us. It just doesn’t seem right to me.”
School board responds
NLESD communications director Ken Morrissey spoke with the Compass about the board’s protocols when receiving these sorts of complaints, stating the goal is to maintain a safe environment for students and families.
“Any complaint regarding the conduct of a teacher is taken extremely seriously and thoroughly investigated by the human resources division of the district,” he said. “Staff who conduct such investigations are trained to do so and undertake this process in a professional manner consistent with best practices, district policies and relevant collective agreements.
“Depending upon the results of the investigation, an appropriate course of action is determined and implemented.”
Although the family has yet to see any progress, they still maintain a positive outlook about the future, noting their son is less fearful of school as the days go by.
Additionally, with more parents coming forth and sending information along to the school board, they hope to see the situation taken more seriously.
“It’s been a very, very stressful time for us as parents, and the fact that we’re not the only ones who have gone through this just makes it even worse,” said the father, “But from what I can see, we’re giving these other parents the courage to come out and talk about their experiences as well.
“With any luck, that will make (the school board) give some more thought to this, and more importantly, no more kids will have to deal with that kind of bullying.”