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BC Teacher Suspended for Alleged Comments on Earlier Suicide

THE Surrey school system is in the news again over gay issues.  It suspended two teachers this week, one of them a gay rights advocate, for alleged remarks made following the suicide of Hamed Nastoh in that Vancouver outer city on March 11th of this year.

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The youth in question, a fourteen-year-old student in Surrey, had left a suicide note which said he could no longer tolerate being relentlessly picked on.  Friends of the teen later told the press that the verbal harassment to which he had referred included being called gay.  Both Hamed's friends and family asserted after his death that he wasn't.

The youth's parents complained to the school board that both teachers had made public comments at the time suggesting Hamed was gay, according to a report in the Globe and Mail.

James Chamberlain has been suspended for seven weeks along with the other teacher, who is unnamed.  The school board isn't providing details on the incident - saying personnel matters are confidential - but Board Chairwoman Heather Stilwell told the Globe:  "It's not necessarily what was said by the teachers, but the fact anything was said.  The rule of thumb for teachers is that they can't discuss students in public."

The kindergarten teacher has campaigned for establishing Gay-Straight Alliances in British Columbia schools and is currently fighting the Board over classroom use of three books which depict same sex parents.  He earlier won a legal dispute regarding a parent not wanting their child in a classroom with a gay teacher.

Murray Warren, spokesman for the group Gay and Lesbian Educators of British Columbia, told the press that after a review of all documentation he could find no evidence that Mr. Chamberlain referred to Hamed directly in any of his remarks.

"This board has had a vendetta out against Mr. Chamberlain for quite some time," Mr. Warren said.  "If the Surrey School Board is not homophobic, I don't know what is," he continued.

"They see Mr. Chamberlain as somebody with a fairly high profile that they can attack and vilify.  I think this whole thing is a put-up job," he added.

The spokesman characterized the attitude of the Board as "unhealthy" and stated:  "They are saying that parents of the same gender are not welcome, that they would rather ban all new extracurricular activities than allow gay-straight alliance clubs.  What kind of a message does that send?"