A Prince George teacher has been suspended for one day and temporarily banned from teaching younger students after showing films that were not considered age appropriate.
The incidents are laid out in a B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation document posted Tuesday (April 6).
The documents state that Andrew Michael Dennis was teaching Grade 6/7 classes when the various incidents occurred. In September 2018, Dennis showed his students The Hobbit, which the documents state “was not curriculum related.”
Then, later that month, Dennis showed his students the movie To Kill a Mockingbird, that was neither curriculum related nor age appropriate, as it deals racism, racial slurs and sexual assault. The movie is considered an appropriate resource for students in Grade 10 and up, not Dennis’ Grade 6 and 7s.
In late September 2019, one of the students’ parents wrote to the principal to express concern about the number of movies the class had watched, especially To Kill a Mockingbird. The next day, Dennis told his class that he was meeting with the principal because someone had complained, as well as sharing a letter of expectation the district sent him. Because that student’s parent was a teacher, the class was able to figure out that it was they who had complained.
The school district sent Dennis another letter of direction about keeping confidential information private.
Despite having been told not to show age-inappropriate movies in class, Dennis still had his students read The Lottery, and then showed them a corresponding short film from YouTube. According to B.C. Teacher Regulation Branch documents, The Lottery tells the story of a small U.S. town that conducts an annual pagan ritual which includes sacrificing a community member by stoning to ensure a good harvest. Members of the community would draw pieces of paper out of a box, and the person who drew a paper with a dot on it would be stoned to death. The story is considered a Grade 11 and 12 resource.
Following the lesson on The Lottery, Dennis had his students play a dodgeball version of the story in P.E. class, based on the stoning scene.
“Specifically, students drew pieces of paper out of a hat and the students who drew a piece with a dot on it had dodgeballs thrown at them,” the document state.
The school district sent Dennis a letter of discipline about the incident and reminded him to follow the Grade 6 or 7 curriculum.
Then in October 2019, when Dennis was working as an on-call teacher at a different school, he did not stop two students who were wrestling, despite that schools “no touch” policy between students. Dennis had been aware of the policy but when another teacher came out to separate the students, Dennis said that the students were “just playing.”
The school district then issued Dennis a letter of direction about supervising students appropriately. This was not Dennis’ first incident of this sort; in February 2019, he had been issued a letter of expectation for not properly supervising kindergarten students.
Dennis admitted to the improper conduct, and was given a one-day suspension to be served April 6 and told to take the Creating a Positive Learning Environment course through the Justice Institute of British Columbia by the end of 2021. Dennis will also be prohibited from teacher Grades 1-7 until he has taken that course.
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