KFB to hire 'behaviour technicians' at cost of more than $700,000

Teacher assault, robbery highlights school plight


KUUJJUAQ – After a man threw a rock at him, and his home was ransacked and robbed, Dan Fitzgerald, a new teacher from the South, left Kangiqsujuaq in a hurry earlier this month.

"These things don't normally happen in Kangiqsujuaq," school principal Shona McCusker told Kativik School Board spokesperson Debbie Astroff.

But in 2005, a teenaged student walked into Aqsarniq school and inflicted a brutal beating on the man who was then the school's principal.

And the most recent assault and break-in at the teacher's home occurred only days after the community's police station had been firebombed.

The two incidents are similar to those experienced by other teachers in Nunavik, who say they have also been hit by rocks, punched, swarmed and shot at.

The KSB said Fitzgerald decided to hand in his resignation two weeks into the school year due to serious family problems in the South.

According to the KSB, the day after he resigned, a man in his mid-20s riding an all-terrain vehicle harassed Fitzgerald while he was out walking his dog.

The following day, again while Fitzgerald was walking his dog, the same man came by, got off his ATV, and threw rocks at the teacher's dog and then at the teacher. The teacher received a bump near his right eye where he was hit. The dog was not hurt.

The next night, while Fitzgerald was working at the school, his house was ransacked.

Police say electronics, including a camcorder, personal items of clothing and food were stolen.

Fitzgerald identified the rock thrower from photos the police showed him although police said last week that charges had not been laid yet.

The police waited before announcing over the local FM station what items had been stolen, in the hope that they might nab the person who broke into Fitzgerald's home if he wore the clothing or tried to sell other effects.

There was no sign of forced entry in the dwelling, leaving police to speculate that the intruder may have been someone with access to a pass key.

Fitzgerald left Kangiqsujuaq Sept. 5, paying for his return airfare, because, according to teachers' collective agreement, the school board is not obliged to pay for return airfare if a teacher resigns less than 30 days after arriving in the community.

The Northern Quebec Teachers Association, the union representing KSB teachers, is willing to help Fitzgerald recoup his costs if it turns out he left because of the assault and break-in.

The union suggests any teachers document problems they experience and visit health workers and police as back-up.

Fitzgerald, reached at his Ontario home, would not comment on events which led to his resignation.

The school board said it did pay for the return of Fitzgerald's cargo.

"The KSB is sorry that so much bad luck befell one of our teachers," Astroff said. "The school board cannot control incidents that take place outside of the school and the school grounds. The local education committee is working with the mayor and the police to ensure that these crimes are dealt with in the proper fashion by the authorities, and that there will be real consequences for the perpetrators."

Kangiqsujuaq mayor Mary Pilurtuut said she was keeping her fingers crossed that those responsible for the assault and break-in would be caught.

As for the violent incidents in her community, Pilurtuut said these happen everywhere. The many good things in Kangiqsujuaq – the community's prowess at ice hockey, its support for Inuit culture, language and traditions and concern for elders – go largely unreported, she said.

Some Nunavik communities are actively trying to make teachers more at home.

To welcome teachers at Sautjuit School in Kangirsuk, centre director Tommy Kudluk and Elijah Grey took teachers out by boat to view remains of Norse-era houses on Pamiak Island, where the Kangirsuk River meets Ungava Bay.

But Fitzgerald's brief and difficult stay in Kangiqsujuaq nevertheless points to trials many teachers in Nunavik endure.

"I have been punched in the head two times this school year and have been threatened and insulted on countless occasions by students," said a teacher from Kangirsuk on a web site called inukteacher.com.

Last school year also saw the trashing of Iguarsivik School in Puvirnituq and a swarming of a teacher in Kuujjuaq.

In the winter of 2005, a shooting-suicide at the Quannaq Continuing Education Centre in Salluit left a teacher severely injured and one student dead.

In acknowledgment of the growing crisis in Nunavik schools, all schools will soon have "behaviour technicians" to help deal with behaviour problems and violence.

At the recent Kativik Regional Government council meeting in Kuujjuaq, councillors approved a $363,546 for on-the-job training for the "behaviour technicians."

The total cost of this project, which the KSB submitted, is $727, 092.

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