Watching a graphic YouTube video in health class about a bullied girl who commits suicide made one Grade 7 boy pass out and was "clearly inappropriate," say both the boy's father and the school superintendant.
"My son was so disturbed and emotionally unequipped to view such a horrific video that he had a medical emergency in class and blacked out," Alan DeBaets told the Free Press Wednesday.
The short film titled Love is All You Need? is like a Twilight Zone episode where heterosexual "breeders" are the persecuted minority in a world where most people are homosexual.
It's about an adolescent girl who is bullied and beaten up for having a crush on a boy at school, which leads to the young girl taking her own life. The last few minutes of the film show the girl slicing open her wrist and bleeding in the bathtub.
"It's inflammatory and, visually, pretty horrific," said DeBaets, whose son attends École Julie Riel in St. Vital. "A teacher chose something that was viewed that was not part of the official curriculum," he said after meeting with the assistant superintendant of the Louis Riel School Division to find out what happened in Tuesday's health class.
"One of the students in class told the teacher about 'a great video' on YouTube," he said. The teacher showed it to the class without previewing it, said DeBaets.
"The teacher noticed my son lost consciousness. He was so traumatized, he blacked out."
The school contacted the boy's parents.
"My wife picked him up and asked 'What happened? What's going on?' " said DeBaets.
Their son had never lost consciousness before and had no health issues they were aware of, he said.
His wife asked their 13-year-old what happened before he lost consciousness. He told her they were watching a movie. DeBaets said his son didn't want to talk about it. The parents contacted the school and asked to see the video.
"They weren't so forthcoming with it," said DeBaets. "I think they realized they were in a big puddle of hot water," he said after viewing the short video Wednesday morning.
The health teacher apologized to the DeBaetes in an email. She said she made a mistake showing the video.
"It's completely over-the-top, gratuitous violence," DeBaets said. "The film attacks heterosexuality, glorifies violence and shows a parent bullying a child," said the father. "A 12-year-old is not equipped to deal with the impact of those statements."
WingSpan Pictures in California produced the film in 2011 in response to bullying that led to the suicides of several young LGBT men and women.
"The power of message is fantastic," said DeBaets. When his son blacked out, the class was dismissed and the conversation ended, he said. "Where's the followup? How do they digest this movie?"
The school's principal spent Wednesday talking with the students who'd seen the short film, said Louis Riel School Division superintendant Duane Brothers. The video was "clearly inappropriate," he said.
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"It's a reminder to administration that the use of any material needs to be reviewed and policies taken into consideration," said Brothers.
He couldn't discuss the case specifically but said when there's a situation involving staff who've acted inappropriately or not followed guidelines, the teacher is taken out of the classroom pending an investigation. If they've acted out of bounds, the administration will meet with them and their union.
Paul Olson, president of the Manitoba Teachers' Society, said he hadn't seen the video but knows teachers here are "among the best-trained on the planet."
Olson couldn't say whether he thought the video was appropriate for a Grade 7 class.
"What is appropriate is parents are right to raise a concern and have a conversation with the teacher or principal," he said. "Parents are right to be involved and ask questions — they should be asking for a meeting."
Carol Sanders Reporter
Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.
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