BC teacher reprimanded for 2nd grade practice on segregation that left child in tears

A Campbell River elementary school teacher has been suspended for one day after a misguided class about segregation went wrong.

According to a consent agreement published by the BC Commissioner for Teacher Regulation about the incident involving Diane Marie Lontayao took place on February 15. According to the documents, the school made an announcement through the PA to teach students about Rosemary Brown, who was the first Black woman elected to the county legislature in 1972.

Lontayao asked her class if they knew what segregation meant.

When the students didn’t follow suit, Lontayao decided to have a “spontaneous exercise” to explain the concept.

Lontayao instructed a student to use pylons to close off a small section of the gym, instructing “all the brown kids, get in that corner.”

Visible minority children were instructed to play tag in the corner, they were given only one noodle. The other students were instructed to do the same. However, they got three noodles.

According to the agreement, the students of the two groups were ‘not allowed to play or talk to each other’ during the exercise.

After the students played for a while, Lontayao called for a water break. She then instructed the students in the majority group to go first, while the cornered students waited.

“At that point, a student (identified as ‘Student A’) in the minority group began to cry. Student A left the classroom with the teaching assistant,” the agreement reads. “Lontayao then explained to the students how unfair it was that they were not allowed to play together because of their race in the past, and it was the commitment of people like Rosemary Brown that they could play and learn together.”

When Student A returned, the teacher apologized and ended the exercise.

On March 15, Lontayao District issued a disciplinary letter and suspended her without pay for 20 days. She was assigned to take the Learning About Racism course, a program offered through the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF). Lontayao has now completed the course.

Lontayao served her one-day suspension on November 21.

Edward Hitchins
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