Reprimands crossed a line, B.C. Teacher Commission decision indicates | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Reprimands crossed a line, B.C. Teacher Commission decision indicates

Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
January 21, 2021 - 9:30 AM

A Vancouver area teacher was reprimanded by the B.C. Commissioner of teachers for actions that highlight the individual circumstances educators have to respect to maintain a positive learning environment for all.

Harvey Yiing Choy Wong was a high school teacher in the Vancouver school district Dec. 13, 2018, when the Commissioner was contacted about two incidents, according to a Consent Resolution Agreement published. 

According to the decision, published this week, Wong was teaching a Grade 8 woodworking class Oct. 15, 2018 when four students left the classroom without permission, before the bell had rung.

Wong followed the students into the hall and yelled at them, as they were down the hallway, to get back into the classroom.

On their way back, Wong told them that in future they were not permitted to leave the classroom until the bell rang. One of the group, referred to as Student A, said “I don’t care” under their breath and turned to walk back into the hallway.

“Wong grabbed Student A by the backpack, physically redirecting them back into the classroom so they could discuss what happened,” reads the document.

Wong had the student stay after the bell to discuss their behaviour, at which point, according to the decision, the student grew tearful and upset.

“Wong conveyed that he just wanted (the student) to do better in class,” the statement reads.

On Dec. 12, 2018, the district issued Wong a letter of discipline, reminding him “of the district’s expectation that he respects each student’s right to personal boundaries” and that he “be sensitive to, and respectful of, the personal boundaries of each student regardless of whether the student communicates discomfort with the situation.”

Months later, on June 21, 2019, the district made a report to the Commissioner regarding a February 26, 2019 incident.

In that case, Wong was providing coverage for the Learning Assistance/Life Skills Program teacher’s prep block when a Grade 11 student on the autism spectrum, had an interaction before the class’s Safe Schools Ambassador arrived.

That student’s Safety Plan identifies noise or disruptions from students as being triggers.

Under the terms of the Safety Plan, if that student is triggered by noise, they should be encouraged to take a break, directed as to appropriate response and provided an alternative work space as appropriate.

“Wong had been provided a copy of (the student’s) Safety Plan, and had reviewed it and signed it,” according to the decision.

Wong was assisting another student, who was boisterous and disruptive and the student who has autism asked Wong and their classmate to be quiet twice.

“After the second time, Wong escorted (the student) out of the classroom into the hallway to discuss this privately,” reads the decision.

Once in the hallway, the decision that Wong signed to indicate it was a fair depiction of what happened says Wong grew visibly upset and stood directly in front of the student, waved his finger in the student’s face, saying “you were very rude” and “you have no respect for my authority.”

The student became distressed, started fluttering their hands and grabbing their head. 

According to the student’s Safety Plan, waving hands are a sign of their anxiety and the appropriate response is to be supportive, including using a calm, non-threatening voice and maintaining a safe distance.

Wong, instead, repeated that the student had been rude.

The student then moved and came into contact with Wong’s hand at which point Wong said, “you hit me”.

The student denied it, and started to cry as another teacher intervened and removed them from the class.

They didn’t understand what they’d done wrong in asking Wong and the other teacher to quiet down.

According to the decision, Wong has acknowledged and expressed regrets about not implementing the Safety Plan appropriately to defuse the situation.

He was suspended for one day without pay in 2019 and in 2020 completed a course through the Justice Institute of British Columbia.

His reprimand from the Commissioner entails admitting his wrongdoing and the decision being published.

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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