A British Columbia teacher has been suspended after he upset students in his Grade 12 class by telling them to deliver presentations on “sacred cow” topics.
The assignment Kuljit Singh Uppal gave to his students required them to discuss the likes of immigration, substance abuse, mental health and body image.
But, according to a consent agreement Uppal signed with the BC Commissioner for Teacher Regulation, many students in the class reacted negatively.
Those who presented during the two-day assignment were “often crying,” while two left the class during the talks.
Some of the students reported experiencing panic attacks, feeling “traumatized” and “stripped naked,” and one even self-harmed after going home following the presentations.
Uppal failed to report “at least five or six” of the students’ presentations, which included content that “gave reason to believe they had suffered physical and/or sexual abuse,” the consent agreement explains.
He also revealed to students that he had been sexually abused by a family member when he was a child, “but did not provide any trigger warning before sharing this.”
The Commissioner’s report says Uppal lied when asked about the presentations, falsely claiming that sexual or physical abuse had never come up in the 10 years he’d been teaching the class.
Students from one of Uppal’s previous classes said at least two presentations were “reportable,” but the teacher did not report them.
The presentations were delivered at the school – which is in Surrey – on Feb. 7 and 8, 2022.
On June 17 of the same year, Uppal was handed a five-day suspension by his school district, though he did not serve the suspension “due to personal circumstances.”
In the consent agreement between Uppal and the Commissioner, Uppal admitted to professional misconduct.
The regulator handed him a five-day suspension, set to be served next month.
It also said Uppal’s behaviour “showed a lack of understanding of his role as an educator in a privileged position of power and trust, both in oversharing from his personal life, and in facilitating an assignment that resulted in students disclosing deeply personal and traumatic issues to the entire class.”
The report adds: “Uppal's conduct in fact resulted in emotional trauma and was triggering to students. Uppal acted in a manner inconsistent with an educator's responsibility for the physical and emotional safety of students by not putting appropriate safeguards in place, not following up with students who were upset by the assignment, and not reporting disclosures of abuse.
“Uppal was dishonest during the District's investigation regarding reportable disclosures in previous classes.”