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B.C. teacher reprimanded for Grade 2 exercise on segregation that left child in tears

Commisioner For Teacher Regulation says teacher failed to treat students with “dignity and respect”
A Campbell River teacher was disciplined for a lesson she taught her students about racism. (Pixabay)

A Campbell River elementary school teacher has been suspended for one day, after a misguided lesson on segregation went awry.

According to a consent agreement published by the BC Commissioner for Teacher Regulation on the incident involving Diane Marie Lontayao happened on Feb. 15. According to the documents, the school made an announcement over the PA to teach students about Rosemary Brown, who was the first Black woman elected to the provincial legislature in 1972.

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Lontayao asked her class if they knew what segregation meant.

When students did not follow, Lontayao decided to hold a “spontaneous exercise” to explain the concept.

Lontayao instructed one student to use pylons in order to corner off a small area of the gym and instructed “all the brown kids, you go into that corner.”

Children of visible minority were instructed to play tag in the corner, only given one noodle. The other students were instructed to do the same. However, they were given three noodles.

During the exercise, according to the agreement, students from the two groups “could neither play nor talk with one another.”

After the students had been playing for a while, Lontayao called for a water break. She then instructed the students in the majority group go first, while the students cornered off would have to wait.

“At this point, one student (identified as ‘Student A’) in the minority group began to cry. Student A left the classroom with the Educational Assistant,” the agreement says. “Lontayao then explained to the students how unfair it was that in the past they would not have been allowed to play together on account of their race, and it was the efforts of people like Rosemary Brown that they could play and learn together.”

When Student A came back, the teacher apologized and brought the exercise to a conclusion.

On March 15, the district issued Lontayao a letter of discipline and suspended her without pay for 20 days. She was directed to complete the course titled Learning About Racism, a program is offered through the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF). Lontayao has since completed the course.

Lontayao served her one-day suspension on Nov. 21.

Edward Hitchins

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