Sometimes I read things and can’t quite believe they’re really true. Here’s the jist of the latest example, taken from “Teaching aide suspended over hair cut” published in Thunder Bay’s Chronicle-Journal:
A Lakehead Public Schools board employee has been suspended and a family has hired a lawyer after their seven-year-old son’s hair was cut while he was at school.
…the boy’s parents told the teaching assistant and principal last fall that both of their sons keep their hair long, usually tucked behind their ears, as a cultural practice. Both participate in aboriginal dancing.
In April, the seven-year-old was picked up, put on a chair “and when he resisted, the scissors were placed against his forehead and he was told not to move,” said Falconer, who said 10 centimetres of hair was cut from the front. According to other information obtained by The Chronicle-Journal that outlines the incident, the boy was in a computer lab reading when a teaching assistant saw him having difficulty seeing due to the length of his bangs. The teaching assistant took the boy into the hall and trimmed his bangs with scissors, the information said, and when the employee admitted she had cut the student’s bangs, she was suspended from her job.
I was speechless when I read this.
It happened in April, but the story just broke last week, a month later. My understanding is the family waited to see what action would be taken. The Crown decided that charging the aide would not be in the public interest. The school board suspended the aide, but is that enough? I’d suggest not. The family appears to agree as they’ve retained a lawyer of their own and are not going to accept the Crown’s decision to not lay assault charges. The family, their lawyer, and Nishnawbe Aski Nation will jointly request in writing that Ontario’s Attorney General review the Crown’s decision.
Good on them! The child initially resisted the aide’s assault, and the aide used her power of authority to proceed. That’s the part of this story that probably bothers me the most. It wasn’t an attack in which an adult physically restrained a child. Rather the adult abused her authority to impose her will and force the child to cooperate.
I put myself in his parents’ place. Imagine your seven year old child arriving home, obviously upset and probably crying, with his hair butchered. The CBC quotes his mother:
I said, ‘Why did she do this? Did she say anything?.’ And he said, ‘No, and after she cut my hair, she took me by the shoulders and forced me to stand in front of the mirror. She made me stand there and said look at you now.’
I just can’t in any way imagine how the aide could’ve imagined this an acceptable course of action. If the child’s hair is in his face, send a note to his parents explaining that it’s causing a problem. They can choose to act or not. It’s not the aide’s decision. Yet the aide not only decided, but took action. She used her authority in a completely inappropriate way. Make no mistake, this was an assault and the Crown should treat it as such.
This is not funny, but a spokesman for the school board said something so ridiculous that I did laugh. Again from the Chronicle-Journal:
The public school board’s priority is making sure the student and his family feel welcome, and the board and school will do everything possible to make that happen, said Bruce Nugent, a spokesman for Lakehead Public Schools.
“We view this as a very unfortunate incident,” said Nugent.
I’d suggest the school board has a bit to learn about how to make students feel welcome. And their view of the incident as unfortunate is meaningless statement that’s supposed to appear as an apology but is nothing of the sort. Even saying the incident is unfortunate wouldn’t be nearly enough, but they can’t even bring themselves to go that far. No, they simply view it as unfortunate. Weasels.
I can’t even imagine how I’d react if the poor kid were mine.