Sage-Burning Student Who Was Smoked Out of Classes May File Human Rights Complaint
Bunn took exception to the school's explanation that “the strong smudging scent draws unwanted attention to the student,” because the only unwanted attention he has experienced came from the school administration itself. Educator concerns, he said, were first expressed last November when he was asked if he had been smoking marijuana, but his explanation was accepted by the principal. On February 4, he uploaded a YouTube video about the incident.
Bunn learned the traditional sage-burning practice from his parents when he was nine years old, but after his brother died by suicide last June, smudging became a vital part of healing from the tragedy. The ritual involves smoldering dried sage and cleansing one’s body with the smoke. Bunn said it created a “positive attitude” before school.
“It helped me deal with my brother's passing away a lot better,” he explained.
The school did not return interview requests, and Brandon School Division refused to speak to ICTMN. Instead it e-mailed a lengthy statement saying that it “actively promotes and encourages respect” of aboriginal and other cultural practices, but has to keep the environment “safe” for those with severe allergies and sensitivities.
“The school wanted to respect and support him in his spiritual needs,” the statement read. “At no time has any staff member or administrator asked a student to cease a cultural or religious practice. The Brandon School Division owes students and staff with environmental sensitivities an obligation to ensure a safe learning environment, and in order to protect them it is sometimes necessary to relocate a student who is wearing a scent within the school, or ask the student to go home.”
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