The Nunavut Government is investigating allegations against a former teacher at Sakku School in Coral Harbour, in the wake of a principal being suspended without explanation and a teacher alleged to have been abusive toward students.
Meanwhile, the Nunavut Teachers' Association says the teacher in question is no longer in the community and says it feels the school is safe.
Education Minister Pamela Gross told CBC News in an interview last week that Sakku School, which serves 294 students in kindergarten to Grade 12, has been open since Aug. 14 and is under the direction of an acting principal.
She wouldn't confirm that the principal has been suspended, saying she couldn't speak to employee matters due to Nunavut's Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
She says the Department of Human Resources is handling the investigation.
"Not me personally, but yes, the department is working with Employee Relations and they're the ones that spearhead any type of investigation," she said.
Nunavut Education Minister Pamela Gross pictures at Nanook Elementary School in Apex, Nunavut in August 2023. (Carl Cardinal/CBC News)
Gross added that she will not be seeing any possible report personally. When asked about details around the investigation, she said it is handled at a distance from her portfolio.
"That process goes through the Department of Human Resources, so it's at arms length from any matters with the Department of Education. It goes through employee relations and it's not something that I am made aware of," she said.
CBC News asked the Human Resources Department questions related to the process around the investigation — including if GN employees were doing it or if it would be handled by an outside person. CBC News also asked when any possible report would be completed, and if it would be made public.
The department said in an emailed statement Tuesday that it couldn't comment due to an ongoing investigation.
The investigation follows an Aug. 14 announcement from the Coral Harbour District Education Authority (DEA) that the school was closed — the very day fall classes were scheduled to begin.
The DEA cancelled classes in responses to the suspension of the school's principal, DEA members told CBC News.
Members of the DEA, and community parents, said the suspension came after that principal reported a teacher for inappropriate behaviour to Kivalliq School Operations.
Incident reports obtained by CBC News allege that the teacher did not want Inuit students to speak Inuktitut, made inappropriate comments about another staff member, and was physically violent toward students. CBC is not naming the teacher in question as the incidents have not been confirmed. CBC News tried to contact the teacher but they did not respond by deadline.
On Aug. 21, the Department of Education posted on social media "welcome back to Sakku School," and that the classrooms and teachers were ready for learning.
CBC News asked the Education department what the attendance rate was for students last week. It responded that on Aug. 22, 113 of 294 students attended class — about 38 per cent of enrolled students.
Parents have told CBC News they didn't want to send their children to school until the principal is back.
Teacher in question no longer in Coral Harbour
Nunavut Teachers' Association President Justin Matchett said his organization is supporting the principal.
Matchett says students should return — saying that the school is safe because the teacher in question is no longer in Coral Harbour.
"From our perspective, the school is very safe. The school should be fine for anybody to go because the people with the allegations were against is not there anymore," said Matchett in an interview last week.
Nunavut Teachers' Association president Justin Matchett sits for an interview with CBC News in August of 2023. (Carl Cardinal/CBC News)
CBC News asked the Education Department if the teacher in question was still teaching, but it said it couldn't discuss confidential employee matters.
Gross encourages parents to share concerns
As of last week, Gross said that she hadn't received any concerns from parents of students at Sakku School. She says she is encouraging them to write to her if they do.
"I have gotten questions from community members, from [Aivilik MLA Solomon Malliki], and from others that have come forward, as well as the District Education Authority," she said. "I haven't received any concern from any parent in Coral Harbour. But if they ever do, my door is always open."
When asked how she personally felt about the situation, as the political head of the education system in Nunavut, she said she hopes that the community understands that they want children to be in school — and that's the most important part.
"It's always hard to hear that there are any issues in a school," she said. "We're working with the right, proper channels to make sure that things are taken care of in the way that they're supposed to."