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Teacher’s Facebook post sparks IS scare at Nunavut school

A teacher at a Nunavut school is under investigation after he posted a photoshopped image on Facebook of his ex-girlfriend and him as characters in an Islamic State beheading.

Regis Duvignau/Reuters

Nearly half the students at a Nunavut school were absent from classes on Monday, and a teacher is under investigation after he posted a photoshopped image on Facebook of his ex-girlfriend and him as characters in an Islamic State beheading.

The teacher, Moses Suzuki, acknowledged his mistake and quickly removed the image. But the incident frightened many parents and caused them to keep their children out of school. A spokeswoman for Nunavut's department of education said 125 of 285 students at the Sakku School in Coral Harbour did not attend school on Monday.

The incident in Nunavut highlights the dangers of social media for educators and how even small slips can have severe consequences. Teacher unions have warned members to model appropriate behaviour online.

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Mr. Suzuki said he has been suspended during an investigation.

"The department is unable to speak about specific details related to incidents involving staff or students for privacy reasons. However, we can confirm that due to a complaint being filed there is an investigation into the matter," said Sandi Chan, a department of education spokeswoman.

Mr. Suzuki, a Grade 9 teacher at the school, said he posted the image during an online dispute with an ex-girlfriend. He posted it on a private Facebook community page.

The image shows Mr. Suzuki's face photoshopped into the picture, smiling and wearing an orange shirt. Next to him is a knife-wielding, masked executioner, dressed in black. On the far right is a photo of the woman who was in a relationship with the teacher. She appears to be wearing a hooded shirt, a head scarf and jeans. She is smiling and standing with her arm on her hip.

In an e-mail exchange with The Globe and Mail, Mr. Suzuki said he found out that the reason parents were not bringing their children to school "is because they've been told that there's an [Islamic State] threat."

"This entire incident has grown way out of proportion, and far away from the boundary of factual reality," he said.

He said the image was on the Facebook group page for less than three minutes.

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"I do of course acknowledge that it was a mistake for me to post such a thing online, and realized my mistake right away and removed it before anyone else got offended. I would like to apologize to the community for my inappropriate behaviour," he said.

He added: "As a teacher for 23 years, I should have known better."

One parent, who asked that her name not be used, said she was going to hold her child back from school on Monday, but then decided against it.

Still, she said she was disturbed when she first saw the image.

"I thought that was a really scary thing. You wouldn't expect to see it here in Coral Harbour. I feared for the kids that go to school," she said. "I think this is very immature, what he did, as if he forgot what his position was."

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