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B.C. teacher’s artwork targeted by followers of far-right social media account

Teacher is now worried about their safety after being harassed and threatened

A teacher in the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows school district has become the target of online threats after a far-right social media account on X shared photos of them along with a parent’s concern over alleged student abuse.

The images were posted by an account called Libs of TikTok, described by other media as far-right that has an anti-LGBTQ+ platform with millions of followers.

The post contained two photos of a person, whom the group says is a teacher in Pitt Meadows who identifies as trans non-binary – one image shows the person topless and in the other the person is shown in a netted shirt – which appear to show a double mastectomy.

The post also contains what appears to be a letter of concern to the principal of the high school, Colin Sharpe, from a parent of students who attend the school. It says the teacher criticizes students for “misgendering” them by yelling at the students and hauling them into the hallway.

The parent does not use their real name on X. Instead, the parent who goes by the name Blonde Bigot, and describes herself as, “a little further to the right than the far-right extremists.”

The parent referred to the school district as having child grooming and “pedophilic” activities and accused the teacher of glorifying their self-mutilation.

Libs of TikTok said they reviewed the correspondence between the parent and the principal and it is their opinion that the school brushed off concerns regarding the teacher.

“It’s not surprising because the school has a massive progress pride flag greeting students,” said one of many online posts.

The images, said Martin Dmitrieff, head of the Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association, are in relation to an art portfolio. The teacher is an artist, he explained, along with being an art teacher. And, the images were in the public sphere because, he said, it’s important for the teacher to interact as an artist through community art programs, where their work is being showcased.

In a post on Instagram by @queerarts for a community art show, the teacher is identified as using the pronouns they/them, and is quoted as saying in their art practice, they document and produce performative pieces “which illustrate and objectify the labours of my gendered body.”

In the post, the teacher also refers to themself as having a “non-binary transgender identity.”

Thousands of people have commented on X, a majority harassing the teacher and calling them names.

“As you can see, the attacks online are very much not only about their position as a teacher, but around their own personal thoughts on how their own identity as a trans teacher means they are subject to criticism and attack, that they should not be, kind of, having this online presence and they somehow feel that it’s inappropriate,” Dmitrieff said, noting that the teachers’ association is in agreement with SD42 and is in full support of the teacher, whom, they said, “is completely within their professional bounds,” both as an artist and a teacher.

Following this attack, the teacher has had to be more strategic and hide the images.

“But it also means their art community can’t find their work as easily. So, it’s starting to really not impact them only as a teacher, but it is impacting their role as an artist as well,” Dmitrieff said, adding that their art, interacting with the arts community, and showcasing their work in galleries is an important aspect of their life. Now, he said, that right is being impacted along with their feelings of safety in the school.

“They are not feeling safe,” said Dmitrieff of the teacher.

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The harassment, he said, has escalated from bullying to implied physical threats of violence.

One threat Dmitrieff was alarmed about said, “Back in the good ol days, perverts like this were taught a lesson in the parking lot by the parents, and would never return in the classroom.”

The parent, Blonde Bigot agreed, saying, “Yes,” hashtagging the words “bring back bullying.”

Dmitrieff noted the teacher now has to take extra safety precautions, and, Dmitrieff said, he has alerted the school district to this particular threat.

The board of education released a statement on Friday, Dec. 1, calling the comments made on this social media account “hateful targeting” and an “attack,” that over the course of the week, started with one employee and then “broadened to include other district employees and the school district itself.”

The school district did not name the teacher or any of the employees who were the targets of the comments, in their statement. Nor did the board identify the anti-SOGI social media account. However, the board reaffirmed its support for the employee involved and its commitment to ensuring a safe, caring, and inclusive environment in their schools.

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“As the board of education for the district, we want to state firmly and unequivocally that this employee has our full and unreserved support,” read the letter on the SD42 website.

“We know that students and staff who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, intersex, queer, or questioning face unique challenges within our schools and communities, including being targets for discriminatory behaviours,” the statement continued, noting that there is no place for discrimination, harassment, or any form of hate based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other characteristic in schools or in the community.

“We will continue to uphold our district’s values and policies by nurturing a culture of inclusivity, diversity, equity and care. Our students, our staff, and our school communities deserve no less,” the statement concluded.

Cpl. Julie Klaussner with the Ridge Meadows RCMP confirmed police were, “investigating a complaint regarding harassing communications between two parties within the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district.”

“This investigation has been concluded and reminders of safe social media use were provided to all parties involved in this incident. The RCMP is not investigating any additional concerns with respect to this file at this time. There is no further information,” said Klaussner.

An online post by Libs of TikTok accused the Ridge Meadows RCMP of calling the mother and intimidating her into silence.

The News reached out to the parent Blonde Bigot, for further comment

Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

I got my start with Black Press Media in 2003 as a photojournalist.
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