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Vancouver teacher didn't make an 'emotionally safe space' for students: commissioner

Teacher made inappropriate suggestions about two international students, according to the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation.
B.C.’s Commissioner for Teacher Regulation found Vancouver high school teacher Bruce Russell emotionally unsafe for students

The B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation has reprimanded a Vancouver high school teacher and forced him to take a social justice course after making comments toward students that were deemed inappropriate.

In fall 2022, Bruce David Russell acknowledged three instances of professional misconduct stemming from complaints, according to the June 24 ruling from acting commissioner Donnaree Nygard.

First, Russell raised his voice to a student and told the student in front of their peers that they were not doing well in class.

Next, Russell made inappropriate comments to international students such as telling one in Grade 9 “put your head up, this is Canada not the Philippines” when the student had their head on the desk.

Russell also “said to another international student who was from Asia: ‘you must be tired from staying up all night doing karaoke.’”

Another comment deemed inappropriate was when Russell told his class that a Mexican student is absent “because [the student] is probably back in Mexico.”

Finally, Russell “addressed two female students in Grade 9 as ‘darling’ and said in front of the class that they had ‘blossomed.’ Russell stated that he meant academically when he used the term blossomed, but this was not made clear to the students in his class.”

The commissioner determined Russell “did not create an emotionally safe and positive learning environment for students” despite having been spoken to before about similar conduct.

“Russell was not modelling the diversity, inclusion and respect for different values that the district expects and promotes.”

Russell acknowledged the allegations, expressed regret, and agreed to complete the course Reinforcing Respectful Professional Boundaries at the Justice Institute of B.C.

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