A Lindsay Thurber teacher who scrawled reminders on students faces and forced them to stand on desks has resigned after pleading guilty to charges of unprofessional conduct.
French immersion teacher Louis-Georges Pelletier pleaded guilty to one count of failing to treat students with respect and dignity, and one count of failing to maintain the honour of the profession at an Alberta Teachers’ Association disciplinary hearing on Monday.
Pelletier, a long-time teacher, taught most of his career at the district. Few details were given about Pelletier’s career and tenure at this time at Red Deer Public Schools.
The district said complaints about Pelletier’s teaching methods surfaced in February 2015.
A month later, a professional conduct complaint was filed to the Alberta Teachers Association launching a formal investigation. No specific numbers were given on the volume of complaints. A hearing convened on Monday and is expected to wrap up today or tomorrow.
Through an agreed statement of facts, a professional committee in Edmonton heard that students dreaded going to Pelletier’s class because they were belittled and humiliated.
Students wrote in their statements that, “if they pronounced a French word incorrectly, Pelletier would make them read sentences over and over in front of the class until he was satisfied,” according to media reports.
Other students reported that one boy was made to stand on his desk because he was too short to be heard by Pelletier. Pelletier wrote the French word for Friday, “vendredi,” on his forehead in marker as a reminder of a deadline.
Complaints about his teaching methods, however, stemmed back to 1994, according to media reports.
Superintendent Stu Henry did not speak specifically to the decades old complaints or any former disciplinary actions against Pelletier.
According to Henry, generally when there are complaints there are action plans involving monitoring and follow ups with parents and students to fix the issue.
“So often in cases like this, where there were one-off issues raised over the years, the schools would say they felt the issues were dealt with at the time and things had improved,” said Henry. “The difference in this last year was just the volume of the concerns that were raised all at the same time. It really brought some issues to light.”
The agreed statement of facts included 30 statements and documents from students and parents, and another seven statements from school district employees.
The district did not disclose how many complaints it had received about Pelletier but confirmed there were no complaints during this school year. Support has been offered to students, parents and Pelletier.
“There isn’t a policy but there comes a point where you realize you are dealing with more than a one-off concern that you can deal with a conversation or small action place,” said Henry. “I think last year it became very evident to us it had become a bigger issue that needed to be dealt with with other supports.”
Board chair Bev Manning said this issue is a very unfortunate situation but she believes in the process and the system. She said the board is deeply concerned with ensuring all students affected have services provided to them.
Manning said she appreciates the work the ATA does to ensure its profession is accountable to students and the community.
Asked about the guilty plea, Manning said it speaks to the character of the teacher.
“We all walk through life and we all face different challenges and at some point you have to just step back and say this is what has occurred,” said Manning. “I appreciate it when a teacher will stand up and take responsibility and accountability for what they have done.”
Bruce Buruma, Director of Community Relations, said in many ways he was a well loved and respected teacher to some and others had some very deep concerns that brought them to where they are today.
“That’s one of the challenges you face in these situations,” said Buruma. “People go into teaching for the love of teaching children. There are different perspectives that are on it.”
Henry said the school has been very instrumental in working with the parents and the students.
“This ATA hearing is not something apart from the work that we are doing,” he said. “We are very much supportive of it and we have been part of it. This is part of how we are trying to address it.”
The ATA has the ability to reprimand, fine, suspend or recommend cancellation of a teaching certificate if a teacher is found guilty of unprofessional conduct.