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B.C. woodworking teacher with dodgy safety record reprimanded

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A B.C. woodworking teacher with a checkered safety record has been barred from teaching classes where there is machinery with moving parts in the classroom.

According to a July 6 B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation decision, Greater Victoria teacher Christian William John Michel had received numerous complaints about safety issues in his middle school classroom over the years.

An incident in February 2020 when he was teaching a Grade 8 class appears to have been the final straw.

The decision says a student asked Michel for help building a small wooden table and need to use a planer to cut the wood, which the student had not used before.

"Michel did not provide written or verbal instructions to (the) student... on safe use of the planer," the decision says. "Michel also did not tell (the) student... who had long hair that reached the waist, that the hair had to be tied back."

Michel lined up the wood in the planer and told the student to push it through before he then went and helped another student.

The student pushed three pieces through successfully but a fourth became stuck.

"Michel pulled the wood from the back of the plane and returned it to the student telling the student to push it through the planer again, Michel did not turn off the power when pulling out the piece of wood," the decision says. "Michel then moved to another part of the shop to help another student."

The student continued to struggle to cut the fourth piece of wood and went to the back of the planer to get the stuck piece of wood.

The student's hair then became caught in the machine and a large clump of hair was ripped from their head.

Michel then took the student to the school office but didn't turn the power off to the classroom and provided no instructions to the class.

The student required stitches for the injury.

Following the incident that resulted in injury, the school district suspended Michel and several months later he resigned.

In this current decision, the B.C. teacher Commissioner is deciding on a more permanent punishment.

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According to the decision the school district had raised concerns over Michel's safety record previously.

Just days before the incident another school district employee witnessed a student using a piece of machinery without their hair tied back and told Michel it wasn't safe. Michel had given the student a hair tie, but the student hadn't tied their hair back.

In 2017 the principal had said he was "very concerned" because eight students had been injured in seven months.

As a result of these injuries, a safety inspection and risk hazard assessment was performed. Afterwards, it was advised that middle-school students should not be allowed to work on their own projects and needed supervising.

A further investigation found Michel's classroom too congested with no "safe zones" and students were using equipment too advanced for their age.

Further emails followed advising Michel about his practices.

In October 2018 another incident happened where a Grade 6 student was injured.

Michel signed an incident report that said not to allow Grade 6 students to use a vertical belt sander.

On weighing up his past history the teaching regulator prohibited Michel from teaching in any Applied Design, Skills, and Technology Education classroom in the K-12 education system.

"Which includes any classroom in which there is machinery with moving parts, regardless of whether it is in use while Michel is teaching the class," the decision says.

"Michel failed to ensure a safe learning environment for students, and Michel had previously been made aware of the need to maintain a safe learning environment," the decision reads.

The teaching regulator says Michel can apply to have the restriction removed if he can demonstrate he has undergone safety training and can protect students in his care.

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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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