The teacher and principal in the Neaveh Sansone case should not be fired, or even reprimanded, because in Ontario, such reportage is not only expected but legally required.
Frankly, it also doesn’t really matter at this point that the gun in Neaveh’s drawing was a toy gun (H/T BLY). What matters now is the fact that the complaints have become as hysterical as the incident itself.
Well, sorry but the last thing we need to come out of this situation is teacher and police second-guessing when and if they should protect someone. This is not about Ontario becoming a nanny state. We have had the same child protection laws since I taught elementary and secondary school in the 70s and 80s.
Plus, remember, hindsight is always 20/20. So lets look at two what-ifs — scenarios Neaveh’s teacher would have faced.
Scenario One: Imagine a teacher seeing the drawing of a child’s daddy with a gun. The teacher asks the child why he or she drew that picture and the child says to show that her daddy uses the gun to keep away the monsters. The teacher doesn’t perceive a threat to the child, so he or she doesn’t report the incident. However, the art work, like all art work, goes into the child’s folder. Fast forward a month later and the entire family is shot and the father commits suicide. No, this is not applicable in this case, but the what if is there. When the public finds out that the teacher saw such a drawing, they would be outraged, and rightly so. It could have been a warning, a way for a very young child to show what she couldn’t put into words. Yes, this situation turned out differently, but no one knows that before hand.
Scenario Two: Now, imagine the same drawing and the same teacher decision to simply put the art work in the child’s file. However, in this scenario, a few days after the child does the drawing, a friend or relative of the child picks up an unsecured weapon in their home and accidentally shoots and kills him or her. The public would have been just as outraged that the teacher had concerns based on the drawing but did nothing.
Plus, the issue that Neaveh was just being imaginative doesn’t ring true to me. I taught visual art for years. I also offered primary art classes after school as an extra curricular activity. One of the elementary schools I taught in was a rural school encompassing many farms where there would have been legal guns. Yet, in all that time (plus when I used to supervise teachers in training), I never ever saw a child draw a picture of a gun warding off monsters, a knife or any other possible weapon.
So yes, while we live in a free and democratic society, it is a society with a social contract and the police are, in effect, there to uphold that contract. And, as society gets more complex and on the Internet, that social contract is spreading into some of our areas of privacy. Which mean that those who primarily uphold that contract, such as the police, need to include some common sense to their procedures. However, it is very important that the teachers who do the initial reporting do not second guess their decisions in order to avoid being tarred and feathered in the media and the Internet.
In other words, there is no reason for libertarian paranoia and tying the hands of those meant to protect us and our children by making something out of this incident that is just not there. That is not to say that this incident was not appalling for Jessie Sansone and his family. It was and hopefully police forces across this country and beyond will learn from it.
But, what it wasn’t, was an expression of progressive ideology or at attack on legal gun owners. It was simply about making sure a child was safe because, as teachers and principals unfortunately know only too well, there are many children at risk every day of their lives.
Therefore, I decided to stick my neck out on this one. I may be a conservative but I do not think educators, social services and law enforcement are our enemies. While I have no doubt, some will minimize what I have written here simply on the basis of: “Well, what can you expect, she is a former teacher,” it was preciely because of that previous experience, and knowing something about the Ontario Child and Services Act, that I agree with Gregg Bereznick of the Waterloo Region District School Board, when he said: “We did what we were supposed to do.”