Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Moose feces 'joke' outrages

Staff still working at school following trip

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All three teachers supervising a Walter Whyte School canoe trip were aware a student was about to put moose feces in her mouth, Lord Selkirk School Division superintendent Scott Kwasnitza said Wednesday.

The Grade 8 girl did so, getting it stuck in her braces and then vomiting, said her mother.

All three teachers involved were at work at the school Wednesday.

"I can certainly confirm that a parent supervisor offered these moose droppings in the guise of a very poorly conceived joke," Kwasnitza said.

At least two children had moose droppings in their mouths. By the time the second child did so, all three teachers were aware of what was happening, Kwasnitza said, adding both children were seen by a doctor.

Parents are outraged the three teachers and two parent volunteers from the Grand Marais school did nothing to stop the so-called joke perpetrated by a third non-teacher adult supervisor, and did not step forward to report the incident at the end of the trip.

"We're all in shock that these five adults stood there and let this happen," said Karen Eyolfson, whose son was the first tricked into putting the moose feces in his mouth under the guise it was chocolate-covered almonds.

While Kwasnitza said two of the three non-teacher supervisors had no role in the incident, he wouldn't say if any of the adult supervisors stepped forward at the end of the trip to report what had happened.

Kwasnitza didn't disclose what discipline Lord Selkirk trustees decided to impose during a closed-door meeting Tuesday night, nor did he identify the three teachers by name or job title, although parents charge the school principal was one of the three. Kwasnitza said all three teachers were at school Wednesday but wouldn't discuss whether they would return in September.

The supervisor who tricked the kids into putting the moose droppings into their mouths wasn't a parent of a student on the trip, and wouldn't be volunteering at the school again, Kwasnitza said. The man could not be reached Wednesday.

Manitoba Teachers' Society president Paul Olson said Wednesday he is unaware of what discipline took place, as union staff do not brief him. Discipline works on a progressive scale based on a teacher's track record and the seriousness of the incident, he said.

As to whether provincial legislation or teachers' professional code required teachers to intervene and report on a situation such as what happened on the trip, Olson said "it's just common sense that teachers would be held to a higher standard."

None of the supervising adults disclosed the incidents when the students returned on May 26, parents of the two victims said Wednesday.

Eyolfson's son talked about the incident that night, and her husband was at the school the following Monday getting the story from the principal. Kwasnitza became involved shortly thereafter, and an apology from the principal was finally offered, Eyolfson said.

She said parents want a meeting with trustees, at which time they'll demand school personnel changes.

"I've been holding my son out of school," Eyolfson said. "He won't be returning to Walter Whyte School in the fall if it's under the same leadership."

She's hoping the division will provide a bus to Selkirk for kids who choose not to return to Walter Whyte.

The second victim won't be back at the school in the fall, said her mother, who asked not to be named.

Her daughter and a friend came to the campfire after Eyolfson's son had already run to the river to wash out his mouth. "They were approached by (the adult supervisor) as well, and were offered to try chocolate-covered almonds," said the girl's mother.

Parents reported some adults and other children laughed as the kids were victimized, and alleged adults ordered the kids not to say anything about what had happened.

"We want to be supportive of the children; we've had counsellors up at the school. That's our ongoing concern."

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

School rules

Walter Whyte School mission statement:

 

"To provide a safe and respectful environment with high expectations and meaningful opportunities. Our focus is to help build relationships that develop citizenship and promote lifelong learning."

 

 

Lord Selkirk School Division's policy on field trips and outdoor education:

 

"The board believes that out-of-classroom field trips designed to stimulate student interest and inquiry and provide opportunities for social growth and development are considered appropriate extensions of the classroom."

 

 

 

While the Department of Education has a safe schools charter and tough anti-bullying policies, sections holding bystanders accountable to intervene and report bullying outline the role of students, not of teachers or other adults:

 

Make bystanders aware that their own behaviour can encourage or discourage bullying.

Teach skills that bystanders can use to intervene when they witness bullying.

Hold bystanders accountable for their behaviour in bullying situations.

 

-- source: A Whole-School Approach to Safety and Belonging, Preventing

Violence and Bullying, Department of Education, 2005

 

 

Manitoba Teachers' Society code of professional practice:

 

"A member's first professional responsibility is to her or his students."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 7, 2012 A5

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