In March, a Canadian principal is caught on video in what appears to be the assault of a student. The principal is black, and when the Board was considering firing the man, the Black Educators Association said that action would be racist.
The principal of Graham Creighton Junior High School was not fired in the end, although he was removed from the school. The incident had occurred in March and was quietly investigated by the RCMP. The school board intended to fire the principal, but after pressure from the Black Educators Association, the school did not sack the man. After that decision, video footage showing the violent encounter between the principal and student was leaked to Frank Magazine in late May. The footage went viral, with the school board calling in police to investigate the breach. On Friday the Chronicle Herald reported head of the Halifax Regional School Board, Carole Olsen came forward to proclaim her husband, Christopher Olsen, had leaked the video.
While Olsen went public with the revelation her husband of 39 years had leaked the disturbing video footage, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union issued a brief press release that states "With regards to the security breach of the video of principal Ken Fells, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union welcomes the information that the Halifax Regional School Board is taking steps to protect the privacy of our members.
The Nova Scotia Teachers Union deeply regrets any damage done to Mr. Fells' reputation by the release of this video.
At this point in time the Union is not at liberty to discuss anything further.
Alexis Allen, President, Nova Scotia Teachers Union"
Sometimes called "blueberry muffin," Ken Fells, the then-Principal of Graham Creighton Jr. High School is seen in video footage tackling a student who identified as 14 year old Josh Boutilier. It appears Fells is at strangling Boutellier, whom Fells had quickly wrestled to the floor after a very brief to and fro. Another student tentatively intervenes and Fells ceases his strangle-hold and instead gets Boutilier to his feet, holding him in a chokehold, then proceeds to wrestle-walk the boy to what is presumably the office. The descriptive note posted with the video says Boutiiier refused to hand over his cell phone to Fells after having recorded a fight between students.
CBC News reported Boutilier is now at a new school, but had suffered a concussion as well as bruises as a result of the alleged assault. Boutilier's family claim the violence did not end with the end of the leaked video, but continued in the principal's office. In a CBC News interview, young Boutilier claimed he had been grabbed by the throat. The boy admitted should have complied with the request to hand over his cell phone, telling CBC News "I know I did wrong, but he didn't have to beat the crap out of me. I don't ever want to see him again. He shouldn't teach."
Boutilier's family were aware of the video documentation, and have requested it from the Board, and have asked to see the original footage, but say the Board has refused. Boutilier's parents first saw their son being assaulted on CBC News.
Fells was initially suspended, and has since been removed as principal of the school after the incident, but is still teaching reported the Halegonia. The Halegonia said the scuffle was prompted after Boutilier refused to hand over his cell phone, with an allegation the boy had taken "inappropriate photos of a girl with his cell phone."
News 95.7 reported the Black Educators Association was firmly supporting Fells. Spokesperson Brad Barton said "If students can go and defy two teachers and defy a principal in front of other students, that's the wrong message that you send to the general public or to the schools."
There is a movement to have Fells reinstated as principal at Graham Creighton Jr. High School, which includes at least one school board trustee, reported CBC News. The Boutilier family wants Fells fired.
After the RCMP investigation revealed Carole Olsen's husband leaked the footage from a school computer using his wife's email password, no charges were laid. The Halifax Regional School Board voted to keep Carole Olson on the Board in her current position.
The Chronicle Herald reported Christopher Olsen felt compelled to release the video footage after the Board decided not to fire Fells.
Christopher Olsen had reportedly apologized to his wife and the Board, while Carole Olsen apologized to the Board and the public. The School Board is hoping a law suit does not result from the video footage.
The RCMP decided not to lay charges against either Fells or Boutilier over the alleged assault.
The Boutilier family is still attempting to get the original video footage, and has hired a lawyer.
The incident has highlighted Nova Scotia's race divisions, a hot-button topic ever since Halifax politicians bulldozed a prominently black neighbourhood called Africville in the late 1960s.