A B.C. teacher was suspended in the aftermath of a spontaneous segregation lesson that left one child crying and others confused.
On Feb. 16, Diana Marie Lontayao was teaching a Grade 2 gym class in Campbell River when she offered an impromptu lesson on racism that the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation said, “failed to treat student(s) with dignity and respect and did not show sufficient care for their mental and emotional wellbeing.”
It started when a message had come over the school PA system, telling students about Rosemary Brown, the first Black woman elected to a Canadian legislature, according to a Consent Resolution Agreement from the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation.
“After listening to the announcement, Lontayao asked her Grade 2 students if they understood what segregation meant,” the decision reads. “When the students did not seem to understand, Lontayao decided to engage in a spontaneous exercise to explain segregation to the class.”
She asked a student to cordon off a small corner of the gym with cones. Then she told the class “all the brown kids, you go into that corner.”
“Three children who were visible minorities went to the corner of the room, as instructed, and were given one noodle to play tag with as they were a smaller group of students,” reads the decision. “The rest of the class was given three noodles, as they were a much larger group of students.”
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Throughout this game, the students were told that there could be no communication between groups.
Eventually, the game ended and Lontayao announced a water break. Students in the larger group were allowed to get water and the children in the corner had to stay put.
“At this point, one of the students in the minority group began to cry,” reads the agreement.
That student was then allowed to leave with an educational assistant.
“Lontayao then explained to the students how unfair it was that in the past, they would not have been allowed to play together on account of their race, and that it was because of the efforts of people like Rosemary Brown that today they could play and learn together.”
When the student who had been brought to tears returned to the class, Lontayao apologized and ended the lesson. She was not the only one upset by the lesson, the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation said. Some students reported not understanding why Lontayao conducted the activity and more than one reported being very upset by it.
Lontayao’s school district issued a letter of discipline a month after the incident and she was suspended without pay for 20 days.
She was also told to complete a course about racism and was reassigned to a new school.
Since then a consent resolution agreement was issued and Lontayao agreed to an additional one-day suspension of her certificate of qualification.