Parents threaten to sue teacher Lester B. Pearson over artwork

A legal letter alleges the teacher is selling products online that use drawings by students at Westwood Junior High School in St-Lazare without their permission.

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The parents of two Montreal-area high school students who allege their art teacher has been selling the students’ drawings and products adorned with their drawings without their knowledge or consent sent a letter from a lawyer Tuesday threatening to sue the teacher already. the school board that employs him.

“This act is even more egregious as it arises from the use of material created by students in a school setting, under authority, and sold with impunity at high prices,” states the letter, on behalf of parents Joel DeBellefeuille and Edith Liard. Both families are represented by the same attorney.

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The 12- and 13-year-old students at Westwood Junior High School in St-Lazare discovered last week that their art teacher was putting thousands of items up for sale, including mugs, tote bags, iPhone cases, T-shirts and towels, with their works of art, the parents said. saying. The students, they said, were doing an Internet search for their teacher’s artwork and found their own art on the teacher’s profile on a website that sold artwork.

The prices of the 2,976 items listed ranged from US$30 to US$120, according to the parents’ demand letter.

The two parents are demanding an apology from the teacher and the Lester B. Pearson School Board, disciplinary action against the teacher, the removal of all “spoofed” artwork from all of the teacher’s platforms, and an end to appropriation of the students. ‘creations. The letter also demands $300,000 in compensation under the Canada Copyright Act and $50,000 in moral and punitive damages jointly from the school board and the teacher for both students.

The letter also says that “a movement is underway” to rally other parents and students to file a joint legal action that could “easily reach seven figures” in compensation and damages “given the staggering number of individual violations committed.”

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The letter says it also holds the school board liable because Quebec’s Civil Code holds an employer liable for the wrongful acts of an employee. The letter adds that it is the school board’s responsibility to ensure that teachers are vetted and their background and social media profiles are checked before they are hired.

“In this situation, it is evident that the trust of the public, students, parents, and specifically our customers in the school board and its representatives has been severely shaken,” the letter states.

The parents’ accusations have not been proven in court. The letter gives the school board and teacher five days to contact the parents’ lawyer and pay the penalties and damages, or make a “serious settlement offer,” or the parents say they will sue in Quebec Superior Court.

School board President Judith Kelley declined an interview request Tuesday. The school board issued a written statement saying: “The Lester B. Pearson School Board is aware of the situation and is taking these allegations very seriously. “An investigation is ongoing so the school board cannot comment further on this matter.”

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The school board confirmed in the statement that it had received formal legal notice from the two parents. The letter “has been sent to the school board’s insurance company, so we have nothing further to add at this time.”

The teacher did not respond to messages seeking comment.

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The artwork in question was created by 96 students for their art class with the teacher at Westwood Junior, the attorney’s letter says. The work includes portraits that students made of themselves for a class project assigned by the teacher called “Creepy Portrait.”

Since last week’s discovery, the professor’s profile on a website where the artwork was for sale appears to have been removed. On another website, the professor’s profile name was changed to his initials. The students’ artwork could still be seen at the site Tuesday. However, he directed potential buyers to contact the artist directly to inquire about purchasing the original.

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