Paul Belanger

Nelson teacher disciplined

An L.V. Rogers secondary math teacher who played what he called “the marijuana game” in class has been reprimanded.

An L.V. Rogers secondary math teacher who played what he called “the marijuana game” in class has been reprimanded by his professional regulator.

On March 8, the school district suspended Paul Belanger for five days without pay and required him to take a boundaries workshop before September 1.

According to an agreed statement of facts in a disciplinary decision published on the BC Teacher Regulation Branch’s website, Belanger admitted to professional misconduct and agreed to a reprimand.

The document lists incidents that include:

• On January 17, while teaching Grade 10 math, Belanger went up to a student who was talking in class and yelled words to the effect of “Are you f—g kidding me,” called the student an obscene name and told him to leave and not come back. He also used foul or inappropriate language in class on other occasions.

• On Friday afternoons, Belanger played a game he called “Question Friday” in which students put questions in a box and he answered them, sometimes addressing topics unrelated to school, which made some students uncomfortable.

• During class time, Belanger sometimes played what he called “the marijuana game,” in which he tried to guess which students may have smoked pot.

• Belanger told a story during class time about an incident in which a student called him an obscene name and Belanger followed the student into the hall and pinned him against the wall. He acknowledged the incident occurred around 2008.

• On one occasion, Belanger marked a student’s test in front of the class and commented on her performance, causing her distress and embarrassment.

Belanger didn’t respond to messages this week from the Star, although as part of the disciplinary decision he is prevented from making any statements contradicting its contents.

Kootenay Lake superintendent Jeff Jones said discipline against teachers is rare and in his three years with the district, there have been half a dozen cases, two of which are still outstanding before the regulation branch.

“We are engaged in teacher supervision almost daily with our administrators,” he said. “We have high expectations and where a teacher’s behaviour is deemed inappropriate, we deal with it.”

Jones said when a student or parent complains, school administrators investigate, although he ultimately decides the next step. Whenever disciplinary action is taken at the board level, it’s reported to the regulation branch for follow-up.

Jones added the disciplinary decision shouldn’t cast a dark light on the district or Belanger: “The district has responded appropriately and the individual, with support, has responded appropriately. We need to be careful when we judge a person, that we understand the context.”