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School CP - February 2008

Corpun file 20019


Toronto Star, 16 February 2008

School staff facing assault charges

By Emma Reilly
Staff Reporter

A schoolteacher and principal were charged with assault with a weapon yesterday after what police allege were several incidents of corporal punishment at a private school.

The victims, according to police, were seven students of Old Colony Christian School in Aylmer, all 9 or 10 years old.

"I haven't seen an investigation like this before," said OPP Const. Michelle Smith. Police aren't revealing the nature of the assault, but the children were not seriously injured, Smith said.

Principal Johan Penner, 30, faces six counts of assault with a weapon, while teacher Anna Klassen, 41, is charged with one count. Both were released on bail and are to appear in court March 4.

The school refused comment and directed all inquiries to their legal counsel.

Old Colony Christian School runs classes in the basement of Old Colony Mennonite Church in Malahide Township, an agricultural community of about 8,000 southeast of London. It's one of the area's four elementary schools and the only private school in the small town.

The use of corporal punishment is determined by school boards across the province. Virtually all boards in Ontario have banned it, though there is no province-wide legislation.

In 1998, an Ontario private member's bill was raised that would have allowed teachers and school staff to use "as much reasonable force as necessary" against students.

In addition to protecting schools from civil liability in the use of "reasonable" force, the bill would have allowed staff to search for and confiscate prohibited items.

In 1990, a Mennonite-run residential school in the northern community of Poplar Hill, Ont., was closed after parents and community members objected to its use of corporal punishment. The school was founded by the Northern Light Gospel Mission in 1962.

Corporal punishment was banned by the Toronto Board of Education in 1971. By 1985, the year the Scarborough School Board and Toronto's Catholic school board banned the use of the strap, one in five Ontario boards had officially banned corporal punishment and the vast majority had informally ended its use.

blob Follow-up: 27 March 2008 - Teachers admit strapping pupils

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