After students were left in tears during and after a class assignment exploring heavy themes, a Surrey teacher has been suspended for not providing appropriate supports.
In February 2022, high school teacher Kuljit Singh Uppal introduced an assignment to his Social Justice class that involved students making presentations regarding “untouchable” subjects, such as race, sexual orientation, mental health, addiction and other topics. When introducing the “sacred cow” assignment, Uppal shared a personal experience that involved sexual abuse, according to a consent resolution agreement signed on Nov. 22 by Uppal and the Commissioner for Teacher Regulation, Ana R. Mohammed.
A couple days later, when students began presenting their assignments, some of them began to cry, while others listening to the presentations also became emotional.
“Two students left the class during the presentations. Uppal did not check on, or follow-up with, these students,” the document notes.
“Despite the emotional reaction of the students on Monday (Feb. 7), Uppal continued with the student presentations the next day… The students demonstrated the same emotions, if not to a greater extent.”
On the second day of presentations, multiple students’ assignments alluded to the possibility of them having experienced physical and sexual abuse, which Uppal did not report to either the administration nor to parents, which he was obligated to do, according to the agreement.
Some students did say that the “sacred cow” assignment impacted them positively, while others experienced panic attacks and were left feeling “traumatized.”
Students expressed that they felt as if they had to complete the assignment and there was a “gun to (their) head” to comply. One student in particular said that they went home after the class and self-harmed.
While Uppal claimed that he did not expect the presentations to discuss physical or sexual abuse, and added that the topics had never come up in years past, former students’ testimonies and evidence indicated otherwise, according to the report.
At least two assignments from 2020 should have been reported by Uppal, but were not, it stated.
“Uppal did not provide adequate follow-up resources or support to the students,” Mohammed wrote.
“Uppal’s conduct, in fact, resulted in emotional trauma and was triggering to students.”
On June 20, 2022, Surrey school district filed a report to the commissioner, who ultimately found that Uppal overshared details of his personal life, did not put adequate safety measures in place to protect students and was later found to have lied during the investigation, according to the document.
Mohammed wrote in the agreement that Uppal was ordered to take a course in professional boundaries and trauma-informed practices. He will also serve a five-day suspension starting Dec. 11, which was delayed from June 2022.