A Canadian schoolteacher admitted this week that he has been humiliating and belittling students — sometimes even writing disparaging remarks on their bodies — for decades, The Edmonton Journal is reporting.
Up until this week, Louis-Georges Pelletier had been a language arts and social studies teacher at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School, a French “immersion school.” (That means that all classes are conducted in French, even though French may not be the students’ first language.)
However, an administrative hearing on Monday may spell the beginning of the end of Pelletier’s career. Appearing before the Alberta Teachers’ Association, Pelletier pleaded guilty to two counts of unprofessional conduct during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years: one count of failing to treat students with respect and dignity and one count of “failing to maintain the [honor] of the profession.” Those charges are professional charges only, not criminal charges.
Pelletier’s disciplinary file with the Red Deer School District is thick with complaints from students and parents going back as far as 1994. Marvin Hackman, arguing on behalf of the students and their parents, produced 30 sworn statements from students and parents and seven sworn statements from his colleagues detailing examples of the abuse he heaped on his students throughout his career.
Those statements reveal a depressing pattern showing that Pelletier’s students dreaded his classes to the point that some even suffered nausea and vomiting at the prospect of having to attend his class and risk being singled out for humiliation.
One student said they asked for clarification on an exam question; Pelletier replied, “Are you dyslexic?”
Another student wrote, “I’m tired of being made to look like an idiot every time I don’t understand or I make a small mistake.”
A student who had to miss class for her grandmother’s funeral was belittled by Pelletier when she returned to class; the student said Pelletier told her “my family wasn’t important, that school was the most important.”
Students who made minor mistakes in pronunciation were made to stand in front of the class and read sentences over and over again until Pelletier was satisfied.
Pelletier also made fun of the students’ appearance. One boy, who was short, said Pelletier made him stand on top of his desk whenever he asked questions, ostensibly so Pelletier could hear the boy over the other students.
In addition to the verbal abuse Pelletier heaped on his students, on at least one occasion he abused a student physically. The teenager said Pelletier wrote the word “Vendredi,” which is French for “Friday,” on him as a reminder to the student that he had an assignment due on Friday. When the student complained, Pelletier wiped the word off with a moist towel.
At least six students said they dropped out of the high school’s French immersion program specifically to get away from Pelletier. Another student, who while a high school student was struggling with his sexual orientation, was hospitalized after multiple suicide attempts. The student said that Pelletier had made homophobic statements in class, and those remarks were part of the reason he attempted suicide.
It is unclear as of this writing why Pelletier’s abuse of his students was tolerated for 20 years.
At his disciplinary hearing, Pelletier declined to speak on his own behalf, and he told reporters outside that he had no comment.
The Alberta Teachers’ Association could levy any of several different disciplinary options against Pelletier, from a formal reprimand on up to having the Alberta government suspend or cancel his teaching license.
[Image courtesy of Red Deer Public Schools]