A teacher in Simcoe, Ontario has been suspended and is being investigated for taking a banana out of the trash and requiring an eight-year-old girl to eat it. It is alleged this is not the first time the girl was required to eat food from a trash can.
It is being referred to as "the banana incident." A week ago, Peighton came home from Ecole Saint Marie and told her mother she threw a banana in the trash because it had black spots on it. The teacher retrieved the fruit and then forced Peighton to eat it in front of the entire class.
Peighton's mother, Jordan Stewart said, "The teacher retrieved the banana from the garbage pail, had [my daughter] come to the front of the class, to the teacher's desk, the teacher proceeded to peel the banana, took a piece for herself, ate it, then placed the banana into the little girl's hands to eat. To me, garbage is not food. You do not eat something that has come out of the garbage can."
Peighton said she ate the banana because she didn't want to get into trouble.
Stewart went to the school to see the principal and ran into the teacher, Renee Luise Oettershagen. Oettershagen not only told her what she had done but admitted doing similar things in the past. Peighton does not like lettuce and when given a sandwich with lettuce in it she would throw it away. Oettershagen said she would take the sandwich out of the trash, remove the lettuce and tell the eight-year-old to eat it. Oettershagen told the mother she was trying to teach Peighton not to waste food.
When Stewart finally saw the principal, he assured her that Oettershagen wasn't being malicious. Stewart then reported the incident to the Children's Aid Society (CAS).
The incident is now being investigated by the Ontario French language school board and the Children's Aid Society of Haldimand and Norfolk. Mikale-Andree Joly, a spokeswoman for the school board, said, "The [school board] is of the opinion that the teacher's actions reflect poor judgment on her part. Although the teacher has apologized, her behaviour is unacceptable and does not meet the board's standards in terms of professional ethics as expected from all its teaching staff."
Joly also apologized to Peighton and her family.
Stewart has taken Peighton and her younger sister out of Ecole Saint Marie and will not send them back unless the matter is resolved to her satisfaction.
As noted by the National Post, this is not the only controversial incident involving schools and food. A parent in Manitoba was fined $10 for not including "a grain" in her child's lunch. Some schools will not allow children to throw away any part of their lunch and must take uneaten food home.
And as Digital Journal reported yesterday, a two-year-old was suspended from daycare for three days for bringing a cheese sandwich into the centre that forbids outside food being brought in.
This is not the only difficulty Oettershagen has encountered in her teaching career. On Sept. 9, 2013, the Discipline Committee of the Ontario College of Teachers issued a Notice of Hearing [PDF] alleging Oettershagen had committed professional misconduct or was incompetent. At the time, Oettershagen was working as a substitute teacher in Halton Region. A hearing date has not yet been set and the allegations have not been proven.