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Vancouver teacher reprimanded for disparaging gay student

Prince of Wales high school teacher called gay male student 'she'

Prince of Wales Secondary School in Vancouver. Credit: intered.vsb.bc.ca

Queer education activists are praising the reprimand of a Vancouver high school teacher who referred to an openly gay student as “she” and made disparaging remarks about the student to colleagues.

The student is openly gay and identifies as male, says a July 9 report from the Ministry of Education Teacher Regulation Branch.

However, while the Prince of Wales high school student was in Geoffrey George Hudson's Grade 8 and 9 physical education classes between 2010 and 2012, Hudson referred to the student as “she,” including one time in a meeting between the student's parents and a school administrator.

At one point, according to the report, Hudson, while speaking with colleagues, referred to the student as "that boy that wants to be a girl”; commented on the student wearing makeup; and said he considered the student's behaviour and manner of presentation “weird.”

According to the investigation, when told the student was to be in his class again in Grade 9, Hudson said, "Oh no, not again."

The investigation found that as a result of his negative experience in Hudson's class, the student elected to complete his Grade 9 phys ed credit through an online course.

The ministry report says Hudson admits the accusations against him are true and agrees that his actions constituted professional misconduct.

The investigation came about when the school district made a report to the ministry branch on Oct 18, 2012, the report says.

Vancouver School Board chair Patti Bacchus referred Xtra's question to spokesperson Kurt Heinrich.

"The superintendent determined that it was in the public interest to report this incident to the Teacher Regulation Branch," Heinrich tells Xtra.

"We believe that we are well positioned to deal with this sort of incident," he says. "We are the only district with an anti-homophobia coordinator, we do frequent workshops and staff training around LGBTQ issues, and we also have a number of district-level initiatives to ensure our schools are incredibly safe and inclusive."

Heinrich says he can’t comment on any discipline Hudson may have received as it is a private personnel matter. He also could not say how the student may have been helped as a result of the situation, as it is summer and the relevant people are away.

"However, in all cases of this manner, I can say we take these situations very seriously and work closely with anyone affected to ensure that an appropriate amount of support is provided," he says.

Asked what policies exist around interactions with parents, Heinrich says, "We have all sorts of procedures and expectations connected to how parents and teachers can communicate with each other when it comes to students' wellbeing.

"Parents are a very important part of our educational community, and we really value that partnership," he says. "We work closely with our parent advisory committees to ensure that our procedures are transparent and effective."

Glen Hansman, BC Teachers' Federation second vice-president, says conduct such as Hudson's is inappropriate for a teacher or any other adult working in a kindergarten to Grade 12 environment.

"Nor is it conducive to fostering a safe, inclusive and respectful learning environment for the student involved — as well as other students who may have heard these comments," he says.

Gay youth-education activist Ryan Clayton tells Xtra he's glad someone caught the issue and took action.

"They're doing a great job with these issues," he says. "It's a priority; they're dealing with it."

However, he adds, "there's a lot to be done in gender conformity and nonconformity. I get bugged when people use female pronouns as derogatory. That sort of implies women suck."

And, Clayton says, while he has heard inconsiderate comments in school staff rooms, "being nasty to someone's parents, that's inappropriate."