Patti Rideout is somewhat overwhelmed by the attention she’s received since the story of a teacher spraying her son with air freshener made provincial and national news.
She said she’s been contacted by various media outlets since the story came to light.
It started with a letter she faxed to the Nova Central School District on Feb. 5, in which she expressed outrage over what had happened to 10-year-old Christian at Twillingate Island Elementary.
“On Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012, my son Christian Roberts had caplin for his lunch. This is what he wanted,” she wrote. “When he came home from school at the end of the day, I noticed that he was very quiet. I asked him what was wrong and he wouldn’t answer me right away. I told him that I knew something was wrong because he was not himself. He told me that when he went back to school after lunch he was teased by his classmates and other kids in the school and kids on the school bus because he smelled like fish because he had caplin for his dinner.
“He told me that his teacher … took him outside of the classroom for one full period. He told me that she sprayed him with some kind of household spray like room deodorizer or Febreze. He then went back to his regular class.”
She says when Christian told her what had happened at the school, he said, “I must have been really smelly or dirty for her to do that. I asked (the teacher) for a hug, but she would not hug me.”
Rideout describes her son as “a real Newfoundlander.”
“He’s not into the video games and things like that,” she said. “He’d rather be outdoors and he loves fishing. If I knew that giving him caplin for his dinner was going to be a problem, I would have waited and given it to him for his supper.”
She says she’s shielded him from media coverage and says he’s not aware of the attention the incident has created.
“I don’t want this to happen to another child,” Rideout said. “The kids are picking on my son every day. She is the homeroom teacher so she must see what is going on.”
She’s concerned about how the incident has affected her son.
“He is very embarrassed by his teacher and does not want to return to school,” she said.
Rideout’s letter to the school board also outlined the actions she took after she learned about the situation.
“… I called (the teacher) and asked her why she didn’t call me if there was a problem. I asked her why she sprayed him, and she said she did it because he smelled like caplin. I then went on to ask her what she sprayed him with and she hung up on me.
“I called (the teacher) back and she didn’t answer the phone. The next morning (Feb. 3/12), I called the school and spoke to the vice-principal because the principal wasn’t there. The vice-principal told me that she was sure that (the teacher) didn’t mean to spray Christian.
“I was very upset and told the vice-principal that she could have called me if there was a problem and I could have come to the school and picked Christian up rather than him being embarrassed and made fun of by other kids and sprayed by his teacher. I asked the vice-principal to have (the teacher) call me to apologize and I have not received the call. … I feel that my son was bullied by his teacher. I am writing this letter because I want you to be aware of what happened.”
Rideout has since received a written apology.
Twillingate Island Elementary sent her a letter dated Feb. 6, signed by principal David K. Dove and vice-principal Tonia Gillard.
“(We) … acknowledge the unfortunate incident that occurred involving your son,” they wrote. “On behalf of the teacher concerned and the school, I would extend an apology to you and your son regarding the manner in which this issue was dealt with on Thursday.”
The letter also noted the school takes the matter seriously and will take the following actions immediately:
“• We have met with the teacher concerned and she regrets her actions;
“• We have consulted with the Nova Central School District on this matter;
“• We offer you this letter of sincere apology and a commitment that it will never happen again;
“• As a result of this incident, you have made us aware of some ongoing bullying issues being experienced by your son at the hands of other students. We will arrange that your child will be supported by all the resources we have available in our school to address future bullying issues that come to our attention;
“• The teacher has offered to make an apology to your son in front of the class.”
Rideout had been calling for the teacher to be fired, but has since mellowed somewhat.
According to Nova Central School District, an investigation is underway and the teacher is on paid leave.
While the Nova Central School District declined an interview Tuesday, a spokesperson for the school district said such matters are taken seriously and they regret this situation occurred.