Valley teacher suspended, must attend anger management class

A Cowichan Valley teacher has been suspended and required to attend an anger management class following incidents including throwing a book across her classroom, kicking chairs and yelling at students.

Penelope Dawn Abgrall was teaching Grade 8 at Mt. Prevost Middle School at the time of the incidents, according to an agreement published on bcteacherregulation.ca – part of the Ministry of Education’s website.

On July 18, 2013 the Cowichan Valley School District made a report to the Teacher Regulation Branch regarding Abgrall under section 16 (3) of the School Act.

On Jan. 7, 2013, during the time Abgrall was teaching a Grade 8 Math class at the school and in the lunch break time that immediately followed, Abgrall criticized a student for not doing her math correctly, saying that she was going to fail unless she worked harder.

Then, according to the published agreement, "Abgrall walked away from her desk and started yelling about working harder and that the work was easy if Student A worked at it. During this time Abgrall was pushing and kicking desks and chairs in an inappropriate manner. She says she was doing so to put them in order. One of the students left the classroom because he was scared by Abgrall’s conduct."

The agreement continues by saying, "Then Abgrall threw a math book across the classroom."

Abgrall came to a settlement with the Teacher Regulation Branch under section 53 of the School Act.

That settlement agreement states, "Abgrall agrees to a suspension of qualification for three school days under sections 53 and 64 (b) of the Teachers Act. The suspension will start on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014 and end on Friday, Jan. 24, 2014."

The teacher also agreed that by Aug. 30, 2014 she will successfully complete the course Dealing with Anger through the Justice Institute as well a pre-requisite course in conflict resolution.

If she fails to provide satisfactory proof of completion of these courses by the condition date, the Commissioner may require the Director of Certification to suspend Abgrall’s certificate of qualification until such time as she does complete them.

Abgrall also acknowledged that the agreement will be published in accordance with the Teachers Act.

This is not the first time Abgrall has been up for discipline.

The district suspended her without pay for five days in September 2013. The district also has previously issued letters of expectation to Abgrall on June 27, 2008 and June 5, 2009 regarding her obligation to treat students in a professional and respectful manner, according to the agreement.

The Commissioner considered this matter Sept. 17, 2013 and proposed the consent resolution agreement to Abgrall.

This suspension is a step in a system, according to Joe Rhodes, School District 79’s superintendent of schools.

"Discipline is always a progressive process. You wouldn’t start at suspension unless it’s very, very serious. It got to the point where we took the action that we took as the result of the progressive process," he said Wednesday, Jan. 15. Why hasn’t the public heard about things like this agreement and suspension before? "First of all, something like this is a very rare occurrence. And then, the old College of Teachers system was changed a couple of years ago, and the new process came in. The idea was to make the system more transparent. It’s only been in effect for a relatively short time," Rhodes said.

A look at the Ministry of Education’s special website regarding teachers (bcteacherregulation.ca) shows that teacher professional conduct decisions have only been posted on that site since March 22, 2012.

Sending the case to the BC Commissioner for Teacher Regulation is the final step in a process the district has to follow, Rhodes said.

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