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B.C. elementary school teacher reprimanded for using wrestling moves on students


A B.C. teacher who once used masking tape to tape up a student's mouth has been disciplined again after using a wrestling move on his young students.

Sylvain Joseph-Leo Desbiens was teaching at a North Vancouver elementary school in 2019 when several parents complained about the teacher using a wrestling move on their children.

According to a May 2 B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation decision, Desbiens would use the "back-breaker" wrestling move on his male students in class.

"The 'back-breaker' consisted of Desbiens placing his knee in the student's back while pulling backwards on the student's shoulders and arms, without using his full strength," the decision said. "The 'back-breaker' was perceived by some students as being punitive in nature."

In another instance, Desbiens lifted a Grade 5 student up to move the student and then said, "Oh, I thought you were in Grade 4 because you are so small."

He then told the class the student was "always lost."

The incident happened in the fall of 2018 and the student's parents had spoken to Desbiens about his behaviour.

However, several months later in the spring of 2019, Desbiens performed the "back-breaker" again on students in his Grade 5 class.

"More than one student said it caused pain," the decision read.

"On one occasion, a group of students nominated a classmate to 'sacrifice' themselves for punishment by receiving the back-breaker as the other students did not want to have the back-breaker performed on them," the decision read.

The decision said Desbiens would sometimes pinch a student's trapezoid muscle to the point where it hurt.

The teacher also admitted he pretended to strike the students by slapping one of his hands into his open palm above their heads.

"On one occasion, he accidentally made contact with a student's head while doing this," the decision said.

The teacher also told his class he would bring a whip to school.

"At least one student reported being afraid of Desbiens," the decision said.

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Several months after the incidents the school suspended Desbiens for three days and ordered him to see a workplace psychologist to talk about boundaries and expectations.

The matter was also referred to the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation.

In a consent agreement, Desbiens agreed to professional misconduct and accepted a five-day suspension.

The Commissioner said Desbiens had failed to create a positive learning environment for his students and his actions had jeopardized the physical and emotional safety of his students.

Desbiens was also ordered to complete a Creating a Positive Learning Environment course.

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To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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