A Grade 4 teacher at Brentwood Elementary School has been placed on paid leave while officials investigate his showing of a controversial video highlighting men in drag.
Joe Winkler’s decision to screen the clip to largely nine- and 10-year-old students prompted some parents to complain to the school principal, said Saanich School District superintendent Keven Elder.
“My initial take is that it appeared to me to be inappropriate for Grade 4,” Elder said.
The video features men in bikinis frolicking on a beach, while lip-synching to the Hawaiian holiday tune Mele Kalikimaka.
Parents were concerned about the sexualized nature of some of the behaviour in the short clip, which shows a close-up of a groin and a man peeling and eating a banana.
Elder said Winkler, screened the video “as an opportunity to discuss with children issues related to transgender.”
That in itself is not necessarily wrong, he said.
“We do say, as described in our fairly recently adopted policy, that all of our classrooms are to ensure that in an age-appropriate and curricularly relevant way, students are aware of and supportive of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] individuals and communities,” he said.
Several considerations can determine when and how a topic is studied, Elder said.
“Learning resources are deemed appropriate in relation to a number of things, including curriculum, age appropriateness and parent and community wishes.”
Reaction from parents was mixed, with many supportive of Winkler as a teacher while criticizing his decision to show the video.
Dionne Rogers wrote a letter to Elder and the Brentwood principal Thursday to protest the lack of oversight she said allowed Winkler to show the video.
“I have no issues about him, about his sexual orientation, what he chooses to do — that doesn’t bother me at all,” Rogers said. “What I care about is the content that was showed to my daughter, and I don’t appreciate that.”
Her 10-year-old daughter was a little embarrassed and “didn’t really know what to say about it,” Rogers said. “She just thought it was kind of weird how the guy was dressed.”
Madeline Gauthier, whose daughter was sick the day the video was shown to her class, said, “I’m not upset or angry, I just think it was a poor choice.”
Nancy Borden, president of the Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils of Saanich, said she was happy with the way the district has responded.
“We really appreciate that the district administration took swift action to get to the bottom of it and to get all sides.”
Winkler, who is openly gay and one of two social justice representatives for the Saanich Teachers’ Association, was unavailable for comment Thursday.
With a file from The Vancouver Sun
© Copyright 2013