A pair of Prince Rupert parents are alleging homophobic behaviour and assault after a teacher removed nail polish from their eight-year-old son without authorization or forewarning.
In an interview with The Northern View, Keri Hyzims said her Grade 2 son, Shemar Williams, has been too frightened to attend Conrad Elementary School for more than a week and is now uncomfortable returning to class after being called to Catharine Hague’s desk, not once, but twice, to have his nail polish removed.
The incident has left his mother feeling inadequate and like she has done something wrong as a parent by allowing him to have his nails done. She said she can’t stop crying when she thinks of the whole situation and the hurt it has caused.
On April 21, Hyzims took her son and her daughter to the salon for some pampering as a late birthday gift. The young boy, who turned eight in April, had never had a manicure or pedicure before and was in his element to try it out, she said.
He was so happy she posted photos on social media of him in the massage chair at the salon with a big smile on his face.
However, Hyzims claims on April 24, her son returned home after school and was upset. Shemar told her he was called to the teacher’s desk during class time, told the nail polish was “ugly” and “it’s not right” and the teacher removed the polish from a “couple of nails.”
Hyzims said she tried to reassure her son what the teacher did was not right and she had no right to touch his body or say such things.
The next day, during quiet reading time, the mom said the boy was called to the teacher’s desk again, where she used nail polish remover to take off the rest of the polish on his nails, saying “It’s not right. It’s not good,” to the boy.
“I have never seen my son so heartbroken before,” Hyzims said.
Noel Williams, the boy’s stepfather, approached the teacher outside of school on April 27 – a confrontation recorded by Williams and circulated on social media.
The video shows Williams introducing the teacher by name, saying, “This is the teacher that took his nails off while saying they were ugly … ”
Hague is seen smiling at the camera before replying that “it was a misunderstanding.”
Williams requests the return of the money spent on the mani-pedi, to which the teacher refuses by saying “no, sir.”
Hyzims said she had a meeting with the Conrad principal, Jean Marogna, on May 2 regarding the issue – and is too upset to deal directly with the teacher.
“It happened in front of the whole class. Everybody saw what she was doing to him … It’s upsetting. It hurt him and it’s making him feel like he cannot do what he wants with his body. It’s discouraging him.”
In the meeting with the school head, Hyzims said her son shared that he doesn’t feel safe returning to school.
Hyzims said she is raising her children to be open-minded, accept everyone and support the LGBTQIA community of which she is a member and an ally. She said she wants them to grow up being their true selves and to be comfortable with who they are.
She believes the incident is sending the wrong message to the other students by confusing them and scaring them.
“The message [Mrs. Hague] has given to anyone, if she’s doing this to my son — I believe she’s telling people that they can’t be who they want to be, who they truly want to be. She’s discouraging them from expressing who they really are and what they really want to be in life.”
In an emailed statement to The Northern View, School District 52 director of education, Sandy Pond, said the allegations are being taken seriously “and the incident has been under investigation since we were made aware.”
A return-to-school plan has not been provided to the student’s parents, the mother said. However, the possibility of a different teacher was mentioned in the meeting with the school. She said she understands the school will speak to the teacher, then follow up with her again.
The mom hopes the teacher will apologize to her son and offer to pay for his next mani-pedi.
“After the meeting, Shemar said he misses his friends and wants to try to go back to school, but he is still scared,” Hyzims said.
The Northern View reached out to Hague by phone and left a voicemail, but has not received a response.
K-J Millar | Editor and Multimedia Journalist
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