Toronto teacher under fire for suggesting that students be segregated by mask status
A Toronto elementary school teacher has been placed on home assignment pending further investigation after tweeting that educators should consider a "segregated seating plan" for masked and unmasked students once provincial face covering restrictions lift on March 21.
The Ontario government announced last week to some controversy that masks would no longer be required inside most public spaces, including schools, following March Break.
Critics expressed concerns that the move may be premature, potentially reversing the progress Ontario has made in fighting COVID this winter and prompting another round of lockdown measures.
TDSB employee Peter Hasek, who teaches music at an elementary school in Scarborough according to Linkedin, is one such critic — and the way he went about expressing his disapproval following last week's mask announcement was poorly received.
Is this for real @tdsb ? Are we promoting segregation within classrooms? Disgusting. @kwadwo777 @robfoot @gregbradyTO @bettybetty700 @AlexpiersonAMP pic.twitter.com/QiiheeUGjD— M To (@m_et_to) March 10, 2022
"Teachers, some best practices for you to implement for March 21... Classrooms with a segregated seating plan. Students split into masked/unmasked sections. Hepa filters placed between the two," read screenshots from Hasek's since-deleted Twitter account, which had a bio stating that Hasek had been a TDSB teacher for 20 years.
"Parents who choose to mask their kids will appreciate your consideration. #MasksWork."
It's not clear when exactly Hasek published the message, but the screenshots started to pick up steam on March 10, prompting inflammatory responses among those who agree with the Ford government that mask use should be a choice, not a requirement.
"Disgusting. They tried that with my son (only one mask free) in September. They literally built a wall around his desk. I had some words for them," wrote one local parent in response to Hasek's words.
"Makes me physically sick. Straight up discrimination and abuse," wrote another.
They always run once they've been discovered pic.twitter.com/C92KeiFUHx— Joseph (@Hockeyjunkie88) March 10, 2022
It wasn't long before Hasek locked down, and then fully deleted his Twitter account.
Not everyone disagreed with the teacher's stance, however. Some came to the defence of his idea... or at least the idea of educators doing something to try and keep everyone healthy... or at least the idea of teachers being able to express their opinions online without being fired.
"This does not seem unreasonable to me. I know we want all this stuff to be over. It will take some time to wind down," wrote one Twitter user in response to a thread about Hasek's controversial post.
"Folk who believe their kids need to be masked will appreciate the effort. Folk who don't will just think it is a silly idea."
"I don't see the issue?" wrote another. "The man was just starting his opinion, either you agree or disagree. Everyone is so sensitive these days."
As a parent with kids in TDSB schools - I very much have appreciate this teacher at least being proactive and having some solution.— G. Wander (@gwander) March 12, 2022
You jump to tweet because you read the word "segregated" but had it been a different word choice you'd have applauded. Silly.
"Separated" better? https://t.co/hDKn7N9JYt
When asked about the tweet, The Toronto District School Board confirmed to blogTO on Monday that "the teacher in question will be put on home assignment pending the outcome of an investigation."
"We strongly disagree with this social media post. The opinion shared by this staff member does not reflect the position of the Toronto District School Board and this will not be happening in any of our classrooms," said the school board.
"For the past two years, the TDSB has prioritized the health and safety of students, staff and school communities," the statement continues.
"As we move to a more sustainable, long-term approach to living with COVID-19, families are encouraged to continue with the layers of protection that make them feel comfortable and our schools continue to be welcoming and inclusive spaces for all, regardless of personal decisions related to COVID-19 health measures."
We remain committed to supporting a healthy, safe and respectful environment for all students and staff. Our schools will continue to be welcoming and inclusive spaces for all, regardless of personal decisions related to COVID-19 health measures.— Toronto District School Board (@tdsb) March 14, 2022
While the school board is separating itself from Hasek's individual comments, TDSB trustees did vote during a special meeting on March 10 to "write a letter to Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Minister of Education and Toronto Public Health to request, among other things, that the TDSB be allowed additional time to remove COVID-19 measures in schools."
The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario has also been vocal in its disapproval lifting mask mandates (as well as daily on-site screening and cohorting) at schools on March 21.
"Lifting the mask mandate too soon may result in further disruption to in-person learning and negative impacts on the health and safety of ETFO members, students, and their families," reads a statement issued by the organization on March 9. "Ontarians deserve stability and safety, not more chaos."
It's important for all Ontarians to note that, while masking requirements will be completely lifted at schools and in many other settings across the province, some face covering rules will remain in place beyond Monday, March 21.
If all goes as planned, Masks must still be worn on public transit, in long-term care, retirement homes and other health-care settings, congregate care settings, shelters, jails and congregate care and living settings, and homes for individuals with developmental disabilities until April 27.
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