The “teacher issue” has not been resolved, say parents of students at the school in Oakville, Ont., where bomb threats over a teacher’s controversial attire have been a regular occurrence this school year.
The group they have started, Students First Ontario, issued a call to action on April 12, saying the teacher should be disciplined instead of being off on paid leave.
The parents want a guarantee from the Halton District School Board (HDSB) that the teacher will not return to the classroom and that those responsible for letting the situation escalate be held accountable.
“For over 7 months, the HDSB allowed students to be subjected to excessive levels of classroom disruption, uncertainty and endangerment, including but not limited to, 12 disclosed threats of violence,” Students First Ontario said in a release.
“During this time, the HDSB failed to develop or implement any existing or new policies or practices to mitigate the situation. Instead, many HDSB personnel went out of their way to celebrate and support the unprofessional behaviour.”
Oakville Trafalgar High School’s shop teacher Kayla Lemieux, formerly Kerry Lemieux, has received international attention for what have been presumed to be very large prosthetic breasts with protruding nipples.
Lemieux claimed in an interview late February with the New York Post to be intersex rather than transgender, and said the breasts are real and they grew so large because of hormone treatment. The Post took photos of a man outside Lemieux’s residence who resembles Lemieux and whom neighbours identified as Lemieux. The person in the photo had no breasts. Lemieux, however, denied being the person in the photo.
Shortly after that interview, outcry from MPPs and the education minister ramped up and Lemieux went on leave. Halton District School Board spokesperson Heather Francey confirmed to The Epoch Times via email that Lemieux is not on active assignment but is still employed by the board. Francey said she could not elaborate further.
Measures Taken ‘Not Enough’
For months, parents asked HDSB to make a dress policy for staff. The board initially refused, citing human rights concerns. The board eventually agreed, however, and released a draft policy in March. But the “professionalism policy” makes no explicit mention of dress.
It gives “guiding principles” quoted from already existing policies that speak of the teacher’s duty to “model positive behaviour” and the like.
“‘Guiding principles’ are not enough as that leaves room for interpretation,” parent Julia de Winter told The Epoch Times after the policy was announced. “Some individuals do not understand what is appropriate, which is why we are in this current situation.”
If the breasts are real, de Winter said, a clear dress code would still ensure the teacher wears clothes to appropriately accommodate them. Lemieux has been known to wear tight blouses, accentuating the breasts and the nipples.
Students First Ontario is calling on the board to take several specific actions to regain “the trust and confidence of the community.”
One is to immediately implement a policy that will prevent “sexually inappropriate attire and behaviour.” Another is to provide training for board trustees and other officials on the democratic principles of parent engagement.
The group wants a public apology to families “for failing to manage the teacher situation.” It calls for a better disclosure to parents of all that falls under diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. It wants a leadership review at the board, to be supervised by the education ministry.
It is also calling on the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) to suspend Lemieux’s teaching licence for at least two years and only reinstate it after a mental health assessment and Lemieux’s agreement to adhere to professionalism standards.
The group wants the OCT to make public any investigations into complaints made against Lemieux, including those related not only the teacher’s dress but also to a video that circulated online showing what appears to be a student vaping beside the teacher while sitting inside the classroom.
HDSB did not respond by time of publication to an Epoch Times inquiry regarding the parent group’s requests.
The OCT website shows Lemieux in good standing and does not show any disciplinary actions in progress.
The Epoch Times followed up with the OCT to see if any complaints had come through, but spokesperson Andrew Fifield replied via email that the college cannot comment on individual cases nor confirm whether any investigation is ongoing.
Education Minister’s Response
Education Minister Stephen Lecce called on the OCT to review its professionalism standards last year in light of Lemieux’s attire. OCT finished its review on Oct. 14, a copy of which The Epoch Times obtained.
It said standards of conduct already in place in OCT policies should be sufficient to handle the situation.
“Following our review, Council has concluded that the standards, governing legislation and supporting resources appropriately address professionalism in today’s modern learning environment,” the review said. “All Ontario Certified Teachers, in their position of trust, are expected to demonstrate responsibility and sound judgement in their relationships with students.”
These standards are part of what HDSB cited in its professionalism policy in March.
“It’s unacceptable and an abdication of responsibility of the school board for not defending and upholding the interests of children,” Lecce said at Queen’s Park on Feb. 21.
Three Progressive Conservative MPPs issued a statement Feb. 28 saying, “The HDSB has abdicated its responsibility by failing to put the interests and safety of students first.”
A parent at the school, who is not named, is quoted in the Students First Ontario release, “In what other field can you mismanage a situation so egregiously and then expect to walk away without acknowledging your failure and instituting a change-plan to prevent a future recurrence?”