A lesson in fighting back

By Janet Bagnall | Published January 30, 2013 by the Montreal Gazette

In Quebec, three teachers have headed to court in the past few years to clear their names. All have won. One case is under appeal.

In 2007, Ariane Gagnon, a grade-school teacher in Shawinigan, launched a defamation suit against the parents of one of her pupils, a 9-year-old boy whose behaviour was described as “unruly” and whom teachers from kindergarten on had suggested to his mother was in need of specialized instruction. The boy’s mother, Louise Sinotte, and stepfather, Jacques Turenne, had given interviews to television, radio and print media denouncing Gagnon’s use of a “timeout space” for their son, accusing her of keeping the boy in a “cage” for 35 hours a week. The school was inundated with critical phone messages and emails, some threatening.

According to court testimony, the space was created with a trellis, with the goal of helping the boy concentrate on his individual work away from the distraction of other children for a maximum of 60 non-continuous minutes a day; the boy was free to leave the space to ask his teacher questions. This strategy, described as a “last resort,” was suggested by the school’s special-education teacher. In 2012, Superior Court Judge Pierre Ouellet ordered the parents to pay Gagnon $35,000 and an additional $35,000 to her lawyers. The judgment is currently under appeal by the parents.

In 2008, Mary Kanavaros, a Montreal elementary-school teacher, sued Kathryn Rosenstein and Hagop Artinian, the parents of one of her pupils, for defamation after they walked straight out of a courtroom where they had agreed to a confidential settlement, with no admission of fault, to where a group of reporters had gathered, and made comments that suggested they had won their case against Kanavaros. The dispute dated back to 2004, over the question of whether Kanavaros embarrassed the pupil by telling him that he, rather than his mother, should do his homework.

Superior Court Judge Danielle Richer described the parents’ post-settlement action, when they spoke to reporters, as “intentional, malicious and in bad faith.” She accused the parents of taking the law into their own hands, further stating that this behaviour was of a piece with the father’s history of defying court rulings, citing his refusal to pay court-ordered child support to his children from an earlier relationship. She also criticized the parents over their “disproportionate” reaction to the homework incident, suggesting they may have failed in their parental duty to inculcate a sense of responsibility in their son. In 2010, Richer ordered the parents to pay Kanavaros more than $234,000 in damages plus costs. The parents appealed to the Quebec Court of Appeal and after losing there, appealed for leave to be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada. That appeal was rejected last year. Kanavaros, on sick leave since 2008, told The Gazette at the time, “I’ve waited a long, long time for justice.””
Read the entire article: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/lesson+fighting+back/7895140/story.html#ixzz2JYRIjD4y

For more on the case of Mary Kanavaros, see: Un devoir d’école bâclé tourne au feuilleton judiciaire

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