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Surrey teacher disciplined for racially insensitive comments, touching students

Sharon Heath, a high school teacher in Surrey, has been reprimanded for unprofessional conduct
A vacant desksa are pictured at the front of a empty classroom is pictured at McGee Secondary school in Vancouver on Sept. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A Surrey high school teacher has been disciplined for making students uncomfortable by touching them, making racially insensitive comments, breaking COVID protocols and more.

Sharon Louise Heath was first reported Oct. 6, 2021 by the district to the British Columbia Commissioner for Teacher Regulation, according to a consent resolution agreement posted to the BCCTR website.

Heath’s behaviour was reported by the district on two separate occasions.

During the 2020-21 school year, some of Heath’s drama students reported that they felt uncomfortable with the teacher “patting them on the back, hugging cast members or redirecting them physically when working on scenes” and sharing intimate details of her youth with her classes.

Heath also brought in a family member to the theatre club to help with a set, after telling students that the relative she’d invited was homophobic.

“Students who were part of the LGBTQ community and who were present felt uncomfortable and unsafe knowing that this relative was homophobic,” reads the discipline file and resolution agreement.

This situation also broke COVID protocols in place at the time, which did not allow outside visitors to be on school property. Additionally, Heath failed to wear a face mask at the school consistently, which was required at the time.

A letter of discipline was issued on Sept. 27, 2021, which saw Heath suspended for two days without pay and a requirement to complete a course on professional boundaries, which the teacher completed the following March.

Earlier this year, on Feb. 3, the district made another report on Heath in relation to incidents that occurred between September and November 2022 while she was teaching Grade 10 Career Life Education.

While teaching the class, Heath had some concerns about a group of students in her class, which she took to the vice principal. The group of students were all of the same ethnic background, as was the vice principal to whom Heath reported.

“In speaking with the school’s vice principal about this group of students, whom Heath found disruptive, Heath said that males of this ethnic background are rude and disrespectful.”

Also during that time, Heath told a student, referred to in the report as Student A that she hoped they failed. this happened in front of at least one other student.

The teacher also told a group of students, including Student A, that she wanted to kick them out of her class, and called the class a “nightmare.”

Heath was suspended for three days without pay and was ordered to complete a workshop on anti-racism.

Heath admitted that all of the incidents reported were true.

Surrey school district had informed Heath of concerns as well, in 2018 and 2020. She was informed by email on Oct. 2, 2020 that she was to maintain professional conduct. According to the email, Heath also acknowledged that “becoming escalated in office and making offensive hand gestures, regardless of frustration levels, was inappropriate and ultimately contrary to… professional conduct expectations.”

Prior to that, on June 29, 2018, Heath was sent a “letter of expectation” from the district in which she was reminded of the expectation that she treat students and other staff members with respect, and that physical contact with students should not occur unless “absolutely necessary.”

The commissioner’s decision is a consent resolution agreement, which lays out that Heath receive a reprimand for failing to create a positive learning environment for the students and notes that she had received prior warnings about treating students with respect and refraining from physical contact.

If Heath breaches any term in the agreement, the commissioner may undergo a separate discipline hearing.

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Sobia Moman

About the Author: Sobia Moman

Sobia Moman is a news and features reporter with the Peace Arch News.
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