Manitoba

Infuriated parents want vice-principal fired after students' underwear inspected

Manitoba’s education minister has asked a school division to investigate after elementary school students were asked to show their underwear to their school’s vice-principal.

Education minister asks school division to probe incident

Sandra Fidler's 11-year-old son Robert was one of the boys asked to show his underwear. She said the incident made him very uncomfortable. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

Parents who have children at a rural Manitoba school are outraged after learning the school's vice-principal asked students to show the waistband of their underwear as part of an unusual investigation into a boys' washroom incident where underwear was flushed down a toilet.

The incident took place recently at Carman Elementary School and involved boys in Grade 4 and 5.

The school's principal sent a letter to some parents informing them of the underwear inspections last Friday.

In the letter, principal Cecile Affleck tells parents a staff person at the school asked male students to show their elastic underwear waistband above their pant waist so the educator could determine who was involved in the incident.

A letter sent to some parents at Carman Elementary. (Submitted by Richelle Foster)

CBC News has confirmed that employee was the school's vice-principal, Pat Hamm.

"All I can say is I had no words," said Sandra Fidler, whose 11-year-old son Robert was one of the boys asked to show his underwear.

Fidler said she knows Hamm and had high praise for her before the incident.

"It made my son very uncomfortable," she said.

Robert said Hamm informed his class boys had been flushing underwear down the toilet as a prank about a week and a half ago. 

"It was costing money for them to call a plumber," he recalled the vice-principal saying.

He told CBC News Hamm asked students to line up for a private inspection so she could see the waistbands of their underwear.

'Crossing a line'

Richelle Foster, who has two girls who go to the school, is one of several parents who told CBC they want the educator involved fired.

"Asking children to show underwear in school, that's crossing a line," Foster said.

"I'm terrified. I've told many moms. I said if she's not removed from that school my children will be. I will home school my kids for the remainder of the year, like, she's gotta go."

Richelle Foster, who has two girls who go to the school, wants the educator involved fired. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

Manitoba Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen said he has asked the Prairie Rose School Division to investigate the matter.

"As this information is concerning, I am asking the school division to investigate the circumstances and report back to me as soon as possible," Goertzen said in an emailed statement Sunday.

Chris Hasell, whose two sons are in Grade 1 and nursery at the school, also said he thinks the vice-principal should be fired. He said he hopes Hamm will be dealt with the same way he feels a male educator would be dealt with in the same situation.

"They're little kids," he said. "They shouldn't be brought to something like that at all."

Kay Gosselin has a son at the school who is in kindergarten and is angry she learned about the incident through Facebook. She said she never received a letter from the school.

"We're literally horrified," she said. "The fact that not all families were sent home this letter, when this is something that every parent of every child in that school should be made aware of."

School division revisiting policies

Prairie Rose School Division superintendent Terry Osiowy would not say what discipline Hamm could face or confirm if she's been suspended.

"The investigative actions applied to this incident did not follow respectful investigative methods. PRSD will continue to investigate this matter and will respect all student and personnel confidentiality both during and following the investigation," he said in an emailed statement Sunday.

The incident took place recently at Carman Elementary School and involved boys in Grade 4 and 5. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

Osiowy said the division will continue to review and revise procedures that will provide school leaders with guidance and direction for completing "sensitive investigations."

Manitoba RCMP spokesperson Julie Courchaine said Monday it was aware of the incident and have been in contact with the school board but Mounties are not investigating.

A request for comment sent Sunday to Hamm was not returned Monday.

About the Author

Austin Grabish

Reporter

​Austin Grabish started reporting when he was young, landing his first byline when he was just 18. He joined CBC in 2016 after freelancing for several outlets. ​​In 2018, he was part of a team of CBC journalists who won the Ron Laidlaw Award for the corporation's extensive digital coverage on asylum seekers crossing into Canada. Email: austin.grabish@cbc.ca

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