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Complaint filed against Sooke School District teacher for reading ‘derogatory word’ aloud

Verbatim reading was from widely-used book; SD62 crafts plan to help ‘unlearn unconscious bias’
A complaint has been filed against a Sooke School District teacher about the reading aloud of a derogatory word contained in a novel aimed at young readers, during Black History Month in February. (Black Press Media file photo)

A complaint has been filed against a teacher in Sooke School District regarding use of a derogatory word in class.

In a statement, SD62 said the teacher was reading verbatim from the novel Underground to Canada – a book written for young readers that the district called a “widely used resource in schools” – as part of Black History Month.

Following the first class reading from the book on Feb. 7, the teacher received an email from a family member of a student in their class, voicing concern with the reading of the word out loud.

“The teacher immediately (same day) apologized to the family, acknowledged they would no longer read verbatim from the novel and asked the family for advice on how to approach the word in the future,” the SD62 statement read. “It is important to pause and acknowledge that this is a deeply unsettling and painful topic for many. We must hold space to listen, learn and engage with each other to continue the very important work of dismantling systemic racism and discrimination in our schools and communities.”

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The complaint was then escalated to the district office, and in response a plan was created by an associate superintendent to address the incident within the classroom, and to focus on how to “unlearn unconscious bias and discrimination in our schools.”

“The district is committed to this approach by getting the rollout of this plan right by the teacher, the school and the district. This rollout coincides with our strategic plan, which values the importance of diversity and inclusion in our schools and communities,” the statement read.

SD 62 said it takes all complaints seriously, and encourages all students and staff to speak out if they feel their school environment is not inclusive, and that any form of discrimination has no place in the district or the community.

“We have an opportunity to learn and grow when we are confronted by missteps and mistakes. This is an example of where we can learn and do better. We are committed to creating spaces for our students, staff and community members that are safe, rich in diversity and welcome to all.”

As the situation is now a personnel matter, the district said it is not able to comment further on the incident or the complaint.

Black Press Media has intentionally withheld the name of the school involved in this complaint to protect the identity of the student, and due to the level of online harassment impacting those involved in this complaint.

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About the Author: Goldstream News Gazette Staff

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