Early introduction to classic movies gets Prince George teacher in trouble | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Early introduction to classic movies gets Prince George teacher in trouble

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
April 07, 2021 - 11:30 AM

When a Prince George teacher got in trouble for watching the movies To Kill a Mockingbird and The Hobbit during class time, he complained about it to his students and turned the heat up on the hot water he was in.

Now for that, and a few other issues including an unusual reenactment of another classic story, Andrew Michael Dennis has had his teacher’s licence suspended for a day and is being asked to take a course on professional boundaries, according to a Consent Resolution Agreement from the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation.

Dennis has been a teacher since 2015, and was employed in the Prince George School District  Oct. 23, and Oct. 24, 2018, when the parents of two of his students made complaints to the Commissioner under the Teachers Act.

Both complaints had to do with incidents that happened in the fall of 2018 when Dennis was teaching a Grade 6/7 class and dipped into his classic movie collection to augment his lesson plan.

Dennis showed his students The Hobbit, then within a month he showed them To Kill A Mockingbird. Neither movies were curriculum-related and the latter was flagged for age-inappropriate content.

“(It) deals with racism and rape and contains repeated use of the (N-word). In the B.C. curriculum the book To Kill a Mockingbird is listed as a secondary school level resource for Grades 10 and higher,” the commissioner wrote.

On Sept. 25, 2018, after hearing that the class had watched to Kill a Mockingbird, a teacher contacted the school expressing concern about the number of movies watched and the appropriateness of that movie in particular.

“The next day, Dennis told his class he was having a meeting with the principal because a parent who was a teacher complained about it,” reads the decision.

Then he was given a letter of expectation from the district, regarding non-curriculum age inappropriate movie-watching, and he shared that information with the class as well.

“Students in the class knew that (another student’s) parent was a teacher and that it was this student’s parent who likely complained,” reads the decision.

The next letter he got from the district was about sharing confidential information about the district looking into the movie issue and making the student whose parent complained feel singled out.

Then, on Oct. 11, 2018 Dennis had his class read the Lottery, and showed them the movie on YouTube.

The Lottery is a classic story written in 1948 and it's about a small American town that conducts an annual ritual that includes sacrificing a community member by stoning to ensure a good harvest. The stoning was decided upon by a lottery, thus the title, and the book is usually for Grade 11 and 12 students.

Shortly after reading that story, and watching the film, the class played dodgeball in PE and based it in 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 on them,” reads the decision.

For that, he got a letter of discipline from the district and told him he has to follow the curriculum. Not helping Dennis’s case, was his class was loud and he didn’t seem to be able to maintain control, an issue that bothered at least one student. 

Finally, on Feb. 11, 2020, the district made a complaint to the commissioner about an Oct. 11, 2019 incident when he was working as a teacher on call.

He was supervising and didn’t stop two kids from wrestling and pulling on each other’s clothes. He said they were just playing when another staff member tried to intervene.

“On Jan. 31, 2020 the district issued Dennis a letter of direction in which he was reminded about his professional responsibility to supervise students appropriately to ensure their physical safety and well being,” the decision reads.

For all this, Dennis will have a one day suspension licence and has to take the course Creating a Positive Learning Environment through the Justice Institute of B.C.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 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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