Surrey School District building (Photo: Surreyschools.ca)

Surrey teacher disciplined over incident with special needs student

Teacher was suspended without pay for one month in 2016

The Surrey School District suspended a teacher without pay for a month in 2016 over an incident involving a special needs student and has prohibited her from applying for a special needs assignment until October 2017.

Following her suspension, Petronella Agnes Dunderdale returned to work as a teacher on call. She was also required to complete four counselling sessions focussing on “anger management strategies” and participate in training sessions “designed to assist her with interactions with students,” according to a British Columbia Commissioner for Teacher Regulation document.

The Consent Resolution Summary states in April Dunderdale entered into a consent resolution agreement with the commissioner in which she agreed her actions constituted professional misconduct.

She completed a “Foundations of Collaborative Conflict Conflict Resolution” through the Justice Institute of B.C.

The Surrey teacher was head of a program at an undisclosed school where the girl, whose name, age and grade have also not been disclosed, was enrolled. Referred to only as Student A, the girl had a safety plan teachers and education assistants were required to follow. The plan noted the student would, on occasion, “show frustration and aggression toward peers and adults through hitting, pushing or swearing” and sometimes leave the school “when very frustrated.”

The BCCFTR document noted that under the plan, when Student A exhibited signs of anxiety, staff were to “provide supportive, non-judgmental responses” and “when she exhibited defensive behaviours (including saying ‘no’ and ‘leave me alone’) school staff were to allow her time “to process and honour her need for space.

“When she was acting out, staff members were to keep a safe distance and send for help from administration,” the document states. One day in March 2016 the teacher and two education assistants were in a room with Student A when she swore at Dunderdale, who directed one of the EAs to film their interaction with a cell phone, the document continues. “Dunderdale did not have Student A’s parents’ permission to film her in this manner.”

During this interaction, the summary states, Dunderdale spoke to Student A in an “inappropriate and confrontational manner” inconsistent with her safety plan, but it doesn’t reveal what was said.

Student A became more agitated and asked the teacher to stop filming, telling her, “Please don’t torture me. It’s very bad.”

The document states Dunderdale did not instruct the EA to stop filming, Student A then went outside the school where other staff calmed her down and brought her back in.

tom.zytaruk@ surreynowleader.com

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