A Montreal teacher has been suspended and could be fired after showing his high-school students the video that police believe depicts the grisly killing of Chinese student Lin Jun – the same video that disturbed veteran police investigators and turned stomachs around the world.
The 29-year-old supply teacher faced a school board labour-relations hearing on Wednesday afternoon. In a statement, the board said it will consider all possible sanctions, including sacking the teacher.
The male teacher showed the video last week as part of a history and citizenship course at the Cavelier-De LaSalle High School in southwestern Montreal. Students interviewed outside the school on Wednesday said the teacher frequently discussed current affairs with his class, and several students asked about the notorious video that had been posted online.
The teacher asked for a show of hands to gauge interest in viewing it, and only two or three students out of a class of about 25 voted against it, according to several students. The dissenters were offered the chance to leave the classroom, but chose to stay.
“At first the teacher didn’t want to show it, but because the students wanted to see it, he agreed,” said student Jean-François Vautour, 16. “We would have found a way to see it anyways.”
The school board would not identify the teacher. Several students sprang to his defence, saying he was popular and attentive to kids’ needs.
Maude Aubin-Boivin, 17, who was in the Grade 10 class when the film was shown, said that before showing the video, the teacher warned the class, “‘Watch out, for sure there are images that could be shocking.’” Ms. Aubin-Boivin said the contents were troubling, but she is fine.
“For sure, at the beginning I found it tough,” she said. “But I wasn’t traumatized or anything. We see so much these days on TV.”
Others quickly condemned the teacher’s decision to show the gory contents posted on the Internet that police believe depicts the killing of Mr. Lin. The video shows a suspect believed to be Luka Magnotta stabbing and dismembering another man. It also depicts the suspect engaged in sexual acts involving body parts and includes evidence of cannibalism, police say.
Montreal police say DNA tests confirm that body parts delivered to two Vancouver schools last week belong to the Concordia University student, and that the torso found in a suitcase in Montreal, as well as body parts mailed to Ottawa and Vancouver, all come from the same body. The head has not been recovered.
After word filtered out about the teacher’s move on June 4, the teacher apologized to the school by e-mail, and the Marguerite-Bourgeoys school board suspended him with pay. His actions were condemned by the board as inappropriate and offensive, and on Wednesday Quebec Education Minister Michelle Courchesne said the move showed a “total lack of judgment.”
“It’s horrifying,” she said.
The day of the screening, the school brought in a crisis team of psychologists who remained for two days and returned on Wednesday after word of the incident surfaced in the media.
Sandra Rafman, a child and adolescent psychologist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, said that watching the video could be traumatic for anyone. Although adolescents routinely get exposed to violence through TV or movies, this case is different.
“This is real, so I would not dismiss the impact,” Dr. Rafman said. “Being shown it indiscriminately in a class creates a true risk of being traumatized.”
Effects could range from nightmares and recurring images to an increase in anxiety and difficulty concentrating in school, she said. “Your sense of safety could be dramatically undermined.”
Benjamin Kutsyuruba, a professor in the Queen’s University faculty of education, noted that the website that originally hosted the video is potentially facing obscenity charges. “If the website cannot publish, so much more [that] the school should have nothing to do with promoting or showing this material.”
The school board said the teacher presented his version of the incident to the labour board on Wednesday, and, given the seriousness of the case, board members will render a decision as quickly as possible.
With reports from Oliver Moore in Toronto and The Canadian Press