Pages of one-liners given to a Grade 9/10 drama class included sexual violence, racism and dead babies.
Jeff Jones, a drama teacher at Oakwood Collegiate Institute, is on home assignment after complaints about a school assignment that included pages of shock-value jokes.
A Toronto high school drama teacher accused of handing out seven pages of violent and sexual jokes - most involving blonde women - as part of a homework assignment has been put on home assignment, the public school board confirmed.
In early January, parents say Jeff Jones, a drama teacher at Oakwood Collegiate Institute on St. Clair Ave. W., distributed a lengthy handout filled with line after line of jokes about sexual violence, racism and dead babies.
Many of the more than 100 jokes cannot be printed in the Star
It's unclear what the assignment was, as there were no instructions or questions included with the pages of jokes.
Parents said students in the Grade 9 and 10 class were told to pick five jokes and prepare a comedy skit about them. A Grade 12 student claimed the jokes were examples students were to follow when writing their own one-liners.
"As soon as the Board became aware of this issue, an investigation was launched and the teacher in question was put on home assignment," wrote Toronto District Board of Education spokesperson Ryan Bird. "The teacher is not currently teaching at the TDSB."
Home assignment is a penalty handed out to teachers while investigations are ongoing. Jones continues to receive his pay.
Citing privacy concerns, Bird said he could not provide further details.
In an email to the Star
, Jones said he could not comment because the matter was confidential.
"Gang banging jokes? ... It's deeply disturbing," said Mary Alton, whose son attends the school. "That's not the kind of conversation you bring up in school," she said, baffled as to "why the teacher thought this was a good idea."
After Jones was sent home in January, parents haven't heard anything more about the incident.
Principal Ellen Austrom did not return the Star
's calls for comment.
By several accounts, Jones is a popular teacher at Oakwood who started a drama production program and accompanied students on a field trip to New York City to see musicals.
Grade 12 student Justin Davis, who worked closely with Jones in the school musical and was enrolled in his production class said the teacher was a controversial figure at the school.
"He isn't a conventional teacher - he's not the best teacher - but he was a good teacher. He understood students and really helped us out," said Davis.
Davis said the assignment was used to reinforce the idea that one-liner jokes need to have shock value.
"This wasn't a new assignment. This assignment has been around for years. The administration was well aware of it," he said.
"We're looking into that question as part of our ongoing investigation," board spokesperson Bird said.
Helena Soukup, whose daughter in Grade 11 has been in Jones' class for three years, says Jones is a great teacher who pushes students and goes beyond the curriculum. She was horrified when she learned that Jones had been removed from the school and says the whole incident has been blown out of proportion.
"I don't like these jokes, but we're not talking about junior school here," she said. "It was for an assignment. He doesn't want people going out a living like this...sometimes you have to push people to help them learn."
According to his listing on the Ontario College of Teachers website, Jones completed his BA at Ryerson in 1997 and his Bachelor of Education degree at the University of Toronto in 2001. He is qualified to teach drama and English and remains in good standing with the College.
Teacher investigations: How they work
When a complaint is made against a teacher, the principal of the school and the superintendent are the first ones brought in to investigate, said Grant Bowers, legal council for the Toronto District School Board.
In the Jones case, this would be Oakwood C.I. principal Ellen Austrom and Superintendent Ian Allison. They have the option of requesting help from one of the TDSB's full-time investigators: Brian Wilson, a former police officer, and Kathy Small, a former investigator with the Ontario College of teachers.
Depending on the seriousness of the allegations, the police can also be brought in and the teacher can be sent home with pay.
The principal and superintendent or investigators interview parents, teachers and students involved and will make a report to the board. The senior manager of the secondary division at the board will then recommend a penalty, Bowers said. The teacher, who will have a union-appointed lawyer representing them, can appeal the decision, which would then go to a third party for arbitration, explained School Trustee Sheila Ward.
The penalties at this level range from suspension for a few days without pay to dismissal, though the teacher would still be free to apply to work at a different school board.
The OCT must be notified if there is any penalty, Bowers said. Anyone, including parents can also make a separate complaint directly to the College. The OCT can call a hearing and hand down penalties that range from a verbal admonishment to revocation of their teaching license, which would mean that teacher could not teach anywhere in the province.