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Family unhappy with fine for teacher who slapped child

A Grande Prairie mother says she feels defeated by the result of a hearing for a teacher who hit her special needs child. Lisa Lovean and her husband were in Edmonton this week for a hearing in front of an Alberta Teachers’ Association conduct committee.

“It’s not something that you expect when you put your kids in school,” she says. “You expect that your kids are there to be treated with respect and dignity and empathy.”

Melinna MacKenzie was charged with two counts of unprofessional conduct for slapping 10-year-old Evan Lovean in the face at Grande Prairie Christian School on May 7, 2018. Evan has developmental delays and a learning disability, as well as cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

According to Lovean, Evan had been asked by MacKenzie to play by himself after other children said they didn’t want him around them in the schoolyard. When he returned, the boy told his mother the teacher got very close and pointed her finger angrily at him, making him think she was going to hit him. That’s when he reportedly crossed his arms in front of himself, turned his head and blew a raspberry, which Lovean says is something he does when frustrated.

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“A piece of spit apparently landed on her. Now my child, [when he] brushes his teeth can’t even spit toothpaste into a sink, so I know it wasn’t a loogie.”

MacKenzie slapped him in response, leaving him with a red face and crying inconsolably. The next day, Evan suffered from a seizure for the first time in 18 months, which Lovean says his doctor said was likely stress-related.

The incident was reported to the school’s principal by several students who witnessed it as well as MacKenzie herself, and she was sent home for the rest of the day. Since then she’s been to counselling and moved to Maude Clifford Public School, but Lovean believes she should no longer be working with children. That’s largely because of a letter she received from her months later that she felt showed no remorse.

“At first I felt bad for her for what she did because we’re all adults, we all make mistakes, but she didn’t stand up to the mistake. She didn’t acknowledge she did it; she didn’t claim responsibility for it; she didn’t even apologize.”

MacKenzie pleaded guilty to both counts and received a $200 fine and letter of severe reprimand. The Edmonton Journal reports that at the hearing, Alberta Teachers’ Association presenting officer Ian Stewardson said it was rare for a teacher to be spat in the face and that her slap was a reaction to a stressful situation.

Lovean argues the committee didn’t hear the full story and believes the teacher was let off easy.

“The message that has been put across to me is that it’s okay for a teacher to hit a kid. No big deal, we’ll just give them a slap on the wrist.”

Lovean says she is still unsure whether she wants to get the police involved.

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