Your kid's teacher is a racist. What do you do?

Dec 16, 2014 at 7:00 a.m. ET
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The case of Brad Badiuk, the Winnipeg teacher who is on leave after making controversial Facebook posts about aboriginals, has yet again highlighted the issue of racist teachers. Luckily racist teachers are rare. How should you tackle the issue if it arises in your child's school?

Badiuk, an electronics teacher at Kelvin High School, responded to another teacher's Facebook post about John Ralston Saul's book The Comeback, which tackles the issue of relationships between First Nations peoples and the rest of Canada.

"Oh Goddd how long are aboriginal people going to use what happened as a crutch to suck more money out of Canadians?" read his post. "The benefits the aboriginals enjoy from the white man/europeans far outweigh any wrong doings that were done to a concured people."

He also posted: "Get to work, tear the treaties and shut the FK up already. My ancestor migrated here early 1900's they didn't do anything. Why am I on the hook for their cultural support?"

He also targeted Derek Nepinak, the grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC), saying, "He wears feathers on his head and calls himself the Grand Chief. You see he had an idea. Indians have no money. You have money. So he could get his hands on your money, that would solve the problem of indians without money."

The AMC's Kevin Hart complained to the school board about the "racist" and "hurtful" comments, demanding that action be taken against Badiuk.

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In the U.S. recently, high school English teacher Vinita Hegwood was suspended without pay, pending discharge, after posting racist Tweets in response to the incidents in Ferguson, Missouri.

Her Twitter account was subsequently deleted, but the tweets read as follows:

"Who the [expletive] made you dumb [expletive] crackers think I give a squat [expletive] about your opinions. #Ferguson Kill yourselves."

"You exhibit nigga behavior, I'm a call you a nigga. You acting crackerish, I'm a call you a cracker."

Hegwood, who taught at Duncanville High School near Dallas, allegedly sent the tweets from her personal account. Lari Barager, a spokesperson from Duncanville Independent School District, called the tweets "offensive" and "reprehensible." She confirmed that Hegwood has been suspended without pay, which is the fullest disciplinary action allowed under district policy. This shows just how seriously the administrators are taking the issue, and rightly so.

What to do if you think your child's teacher is racist

Paul Olson, president of the Manitoba Teachers' Society, said that despite there being no official rules about what teachers can and can't post on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, there is "no such thing as a teacher off duty," and they are held to higher standards than other people.

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"There's legal precedent in Canada on that," he added. "Teaching is not so much something you do as a teacher; it's something you are. You're a teacher 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, anywhere on earth. That can be taken to extremes, but if something in your personal or your private conduct causes any concern about your professional practice, that is fair game, at least for a conversation with your employer or your professional organization, depending. So you're never really off duty."

Get the facts

If you know or suspect your child's teacher is demonstrating racist behaviour, get all the facts down on paper. If this information has come from your child, ask her to tell you exactly what happened, and record it in as much detail as possible. Find out if any other children were aware of the incident. Contact their parents, and ask if their children have spoken about any issues in the classroom.

Take a screenshot

If you have noticed a racist comment from your child's teacher on a social media site, take a screenshot of it as evidence. Next, contact the school's administrator and find out who you should take your concerns to. Ask to see the school's policies on racism. When you have provided the appropriate person with the information you have, plus any proof you have to back it up, it is then the responsibility of the school division to take appropriate action.

Remember, at all times the welfare of your child is paramount. Request a transfer to another class if your child is distressed as a result of the teacher's behaviour.

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