The Vanguard School sued by parents

The parents of a 16-year-old girl file a lawsuit against the Vanguard School in Montreal. They accuse him of having excluded their daughter from her lessons after she denounced what she considers to be “inappropriate behavior” by her drama teacher.

Nearly a year after having denounced to the management of her school the behavior of her drama teacher which made her uncomfortable, Léa (fictitious name) is still having panic attacks.

” That [le fait de ne pas avoir été crue] clipped my wings. I don’t feel like this story is settled because there was no conclusion. All that has changed is that I was kicked out as if I were a problem”, says Léa, who ended up interrupting her schooling because of her psychological distress.

The 16-year-old girl still finds it difficult to explain why her speaking out earned her being excluded from her drama class, then having to take all of her classes remotely. The condition for being reinstated in her face-to-face lessons was to be followed by a psychologist, which her parents refused. Today, Léa is out of school and is still trying to turn the page.

Her parents feel that the school management failed in their duty to protect their daughter and have decided to sue her.

The anonymity of the teenager, her parents and the teacher has been preserved by The duty so that it is not possible to identify the underage girl. The allegations reported in the petition have not yet been tested in court.

In interview with The duty, Annie Lamarre, director general of the Vanguard school, specified that she could not comment on the allegations and the management of the situation by the management “because all this information could make it possible to identify the adult or the student, which could cause harm”. Contacted by The duty, the drama teacher replied by e-mail: “In the name of the duty of reserve inherent in my profession in terms of information about the young people in my environment, it is impossible for me to give you the whole other side of the coin. »

A controversial suit

Suffering from generalized learning disabilities, including dyscalculia, Léa joined the Vanguard school in the fall of 2020, a specialized private establishment. She took compulsory high school drama classes there. From the start of the school year, she says she felt uncomfortable with her teacher’s behavior.

Léa says she was particularly disturbed by the fact that her teacher took the measurements of the teenage girls for the costumes in the play presented that year. She was “particularly confused and uncomfortable when the teacher put his tape measure on her chest, hips, buttocks and pelvis,” said the petition filed in court on Tuesday.

The presentation of the costume worn by the girls a few weeks later would have created quite a stir with some students. The final version would have been more suggestive than the sketches. According to the request, the young girls had to wear “a mini-skirt as well as a bra that revealed the shapes of young students”.

I felt like it was slipping away from me. Léa was being punished for talking.

So much so that the management decided to send an email to all the parents to take stock of the situation. She specifies that the teacher carried out the fittings in the presence of another drama teacher and that the costumes were approved by the administration. “The student who is not comfortable, for whatever reason, has and will have alternatives (undershirt instead of a bralette, leggings instead of tights, etc.). The goal is not for them to be uncomfortable, but we are still working to make them understand that it is a costume, ”explains the management in the email, that The duty was able to consult.

During the fittings, Léa’s uneasiness increases and she decides to stay in the door frame of the costume designer, her arms crossed on her chest, under the gaze of the teacher, according to the request. Léa shares her discomfort with her teacher, who “is content only to tell her that she is very beautiful”, can we read in the court document.

After an internal investigation, management sent a letter to Léa’s parents stating that the allegations “did not [pas] proven to be well-founded, which was confirmed to us by various witnesses interviewed”. The letter specifies that the management will make changes in order “to avoid situations that could leave room for some discomfort: more intensive supervision of the fitting session by a teacher or costume designer. Measurements taken by another teacher or costumer”.

The drama teacher explains for his part that the teachers follow “a panoply of preventive measures [qui] are set up [par la direction] and respected”. In particular, he specifies that the students “place the measuring tapes on them themselves”. According to him, these directives were already respected “last year”.

Executive Management

The trigger for the internal investigation is that Léa decided to confide her discomfort to the director of the first cycle. According to the request, the latter replied that there was nothing “abnormal or inappropriate” in the behavior of her teacher and asked her instead, on several occasions, if she had experienced an event in her past which would have made her more sensitive to the teacher’s behavior.

Victim of sexual assault in her childhood, the teenager did not expect this information recorded in her school file to be mentioned.

The headmistress decides to call on the school’s sex therapist. “The two suggest to her that it is rather the student who would have romantic feelings towards the teacher and that the said situation would only be the perception of the student who is playing tricks on her and that she should consult a psychologist”, describes the court document.

“The sex therapist made me a drawing of an iceberg to explain to me that memories can come back… She told me that it was normal sometimes in adolescence to feel feelings for a teacher. But it was so not that! recalls Léa in an interview with The duty.

During a second meeting with the director, Léa “expressed her need to see the teacher adopt a more professional behavior with her students, that she be able to express her limits, that we take into account her need to frequent the school in a healthy, safe and respected environment and that the teacher is verbally reminded of his professional limits”, specifies the request. The director then announces to him that he is forbidden to go to his drama class for an indefinite period.

The young girl takes this decision very badly and begins to have panic attacks. The parents then decide that she will continue all of her lessons online until the investigation of the teacher ends.

Without wanting to comment on Léa’s case, the director general of the Vanguard school, Annie Lamarre, recalls in an interview with The duty that an internal investigation is automatically triggered in the event of a complaint. “We must act with caution, with vigilance according to the allegations presented to us […] We have to check with any witness, child or adult, intervener, parent, ”she explains.

The mother of a classmate of Léa told the To have to being shocked by management’s reaction to the teenager’s testimony. The mother, whose anonymity we must preserve to prevent her minor daughter from being identified, says that her daughter told her that she had witnessed the discomfort of other students in the face of the teacher and the chosen costume.

“We are talking about children who are 14-15 years old and who are not comfortable enough with it, especially in front of an authority figure. They may have been afraid of the repercussions and preferred to abstain, but that did not mean that there was no one else who was uncomfortable with the situation,” she confides. .

A conditional return to class

After the internal investigation it conducted, the management announced to Léa’s parents, in writing, that she could not return to school unless she “submitted to the essential condition of undergoing an evaluation and follow-up psychological where she would work on her “perceptions””, specifies the mother of the teenager in an interview with The duty.

Faced with the refusal of Léa and her parents to submit to the management’s conditions, the teenager must leave the Vanguard school. A situation that would have harmed Léa’s learning, whose academic success would have been compromised in a public establishment which “does not allow the same teaching conditions as the defendant to be offered in that the latter is adapted to students with learning disabilities,” the lawsuit states.

Faced with the lack of possible recourse against the management’s decision, Léa’s parents decided to contact the SPVM to resolve their problems with the management, without filing a complaint against the teacher.

“The School made its decisions in the light of the information it had […] I can assure you that any allegation is taken seriously, with an internal investigation and collaboration, which is done according to the allegations that are made, with the SPVM. The information that the School received in September 2021 is that there was no complaint retained in any way, ”specifies the director general, Annie Lamarre.

“I felt like it was slipping away from me. Léa was being punished for talking. I saw her having panic attacks. Usually, we can file a complaint with the school board, but this is a private school, ”laments Léa’s mother, who finally decided to file a civil lawsuit. Léa’s parents are claiming $230,000 from the Vanguard School for the harm they allegedly suffered. They did not take any action against the teacher.

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