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A teacher at Dawson College in Quebec says she is disappointed with what she considers the school’s slow and inadequate response to her complaint about a male student who allegedly masturbated in the classroom while she was teaching.
Nancy Loane was teaching her Ethics for Modern Life course on the afternoon of Tuesday, Oct. 29, when she noticed a male student at the back of the class who “seemed distracted,” so she called on him. He responded, and she then went back to teaching her class.
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But the following Tuesday, an hour and a half before the same class was scheduled to meet again, a student stopped Loane in the stairwell.
“She informed me that she and another student had heard and witnessed a student masturbating for several minutes in my class one week before,” Loane told the Montreal Gazette.
With no time to report the complaint to the administration before her class, Loane got her students busy with an assignment and asked the student in question to step into the hallway.
She informed him she had received complaints about his behaviour in a previous class and that she was obliged to take the complaints to the dean. She requested that he not attend the class that day. He asked what the complaints were about, and she told him she could not elaborate. He complied with her request and left without incident.
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The teacher then asked both female students to step out of the class and tell her what they had witnessed.
Both students told Loane they first heard the male student moaning, and when they glanced at him, they could see that he was rubbing his groin area against his chair and moving his entire torso, movements they interpreted as masturbation.
“And at one point, he made eye contact with one of the students,” Loane said.
The students said they both remembered the teacher calling on the student, at which point he paused his physical movements and answered.
“Momentarily, he was attentive, and then after that he apparently resumed masturbating even faster,” Loane said. “The two students say it went on for a few minutes and one of the two students said that near the end he put his hands in his pants, but he never exposed himself.”
There were about 34 students in the class at the time, Loane said, and because the classroom is unusually long and narrow, she could not see clearly what was happening in the back row.
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Neither of the female students wished to make a complaint to the administration nor did they wish to report it to police, Loane said. Both, she said, seemed concerned about what else the student might do and wanted their teacher to ensure that he would not be allowed to return to class.
At the end of the class, Loane told all the students she had received complaints about “unacceptable behaviour of a very serious nature” in her Oct. 29 class and invited any student who had seen or heard anything to speak to her. No students did.
After the class, Loane went to the dean of her Social Sciences and Business Technologies department, Isabelle Carrier, and reported the incident.
Loane told the dean she wanted to be able to assure her students at their next class, which was in two days, that her classroom was a safe environment and the student in question would not be allowed in the class for the rest of the term.
Loane says Carrier assured her only that the student would be removed from the class until an investigation by student services was completed. It took three days for the dean to inform Loane that the student has been suspended from the class for the rest of term.
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Because she believes the incident constitutes an offence under the criminal code — committing an indecent act in a public place — Loane reported it to police on Monday, Nov. 11.
By Tuesday, Loane said the entire class was aware of the details of the incident, and several students expressed concerns.
“My students want to know, was he only kicked out of my class? Is he in their other classes? Is he wandering the halls? Is he suspended just for this last month of school or will he be back in January?” she said.
Like all CEGEPs and universities in the province, Dawson was required by law to have a sexual violence response policy in place by Jan. 1, 2019. Loane is concerned that the policy exists on paper, but is not being properly enforced.
Christina Parsons, a spokesperson for the college, issued this statement in response to a Gazette request for an interview with dean Carrier:
“Dawson College reacted quickly when a situation involving alleged indecent behaviour in class by a student was brought to the attention of a teacher and then to a member of the management team on the afternoon of Nov. 5,” the statement says.
“The college followed its comprehensive and detailed, which took effect Sept. 1, 2019 after extensive consultations and research, and the . Support and guidance were provided immediately to all concerned and the situation was investigated with due diligence and utmost respect. Maintaining an atmosphere of security and well-being for students, teachers and staff is a priority. The college is committed to following the law, and its own internal policies and regulations. Due to confidentiality, the college cannot provide further comments.”
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Loane contends the CEGEP did not follow the procedures set out in its sexual violence policy. She notes that no Sexual Violence Response Team member contacted her to ensure her safety or the safety of her students. She was not put in touch with an Employee First Contact Person, who should have been made available to provide support and guidance, according to the policy. She is also concerned that the school has not yet provided mandatory training sessions to teachers on handling sexual violence incidents, as set out in the policy.
Loane, who has been teaching at the CEGEP since 1998 and is a permanent employee, also sought advice from her union steward, who assured her she would not be required to teach in an unsafe environment so could refuse to teach if the student returned to class.
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