Teacher learns hard lesson

Slap of unruly student resonates through school and teacher's job
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 04/26/2012

This instalment of You Make the Call features a teacher who slapped a misbehaving student in class.

Jennifer Clarke was a teacher with four years’ experience for the Simcoe County District School Board in Ontario. On Oct. 7, 2009, Clarke was teaching a class at a secondary school. The class was watching a movie, but two students were disrupting the class by trying to whistle with their fingers in their mouths. Clarke moved one of the students to the back of the classroom, but the 13-year-old continued attempting to whistle. Clarke warned him to stop and told him not to spit on his book, but the student continued. Clarke approached him and swung her hand, which she claimed was an attempt to move the student’s hand away from his mouth. However, her hand connected with the student’s right cheek, slapping him and leaving a red mark on his face that was still visible 30 minutes later.

Clarke didn’t initially report the incident to the school. She was aware of the seriousness of the incident, because school board policy prohibited hitting students and teachers had a high standard of conduct. She knew she had messed up, but she needed time to think about what to do. She finally decided to discuss it with a vice-principal midway through the next day when she had a free period.