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Suicide Video Shown At Winnipeg School Enrages Dad

05/30/2013 02:57 EDT | Updated 07/30/2013 05:12 EDT
A graphic video shown to a class of Grade 7 students has angered a Winnipeg man who called it inappropriate, gratuitously violent and horrific.

Alan DeBaets said his son, who was in the class, was "so disturbed and emotionally unequipped to view such horrific video that he had a medical emergency in class and blacked out."

"The target audience is impressionable 12- and 13-year-old children. At 42 years old, I can hardly stomach the contents," he said in an email sent to CBC News.

"We were horrified. Both my wife and I had a very difficult time sitting through it. We were absolutely shocked that this would be somehow shown to the school, especially without any sort of permission," he added in an interview.

The 19-minute video, titled Love is all you need? is set in a homosexual society in which heterosexual people are denounced and bullied and referred to as "breeders."

It shows a teenage girl driven to suicide after trying to have a relationship with a boy. She is beaten and branded with the word "Hetero" on her forehead before she goes home and cuts her wrists in a bathtub.

Teacher apologizes

The video was shown by a health teacher in the Louis Riel School Division.

The teacher has since written an email to DeBaets and apologized.

"In discussion with administration, I realize that I made a mistake in showing this. If you have any further questions, please let me know," she stated in her email.

"I sincerely apologize for the mistakes I made and please know that in the future they will not happen again."

But that's not good enough for DeBaets, who is unhappy the teacher is still working with students. He said he was shocked to learn the teacher did not even preview the video before showing it.

"This misconduct makes previous teacher scandals in Manitoba seem pale by comparison," he wrote.

"The school system is trying to brush this under the rug. The teacher who showed this video is working today without any reprimand."

Officials with the school division said the video was inappropriate.

Video was meant for adults, says creator

Kim Rocco Shields, the Los Angeles-based creator and director of the video, told CBC News the version that is posted on YouTube — and was viewed by the students in Winnipeg — was meant for an older audience.

"It was created to open eyes of more adults and maybe teenagers, late teens, that couldn't really grasp the idea of why kids were being bullied and why kids were taking their own lives," she said in an interview.

Rocco Shields said she has met with educators to create an alternative ending that's appropriate for younger students, in which the main character lives.

"Some of the experts said, right then and there, we must change the ending so it's more uplifting," she said.

"The last thing we want to do is to show this to kids so that they will be influenced in any way negatively."

Praise for video

But Chad Smith, executive director of the Rainbow Resource Centre, praised the video as "a wonderful teaching tool."

"I think it does a wonderful job of turning [the issue] around. Straight kids are going to identify with the main character; they're going to see the world from a different perspective," he said.

"It's a wonderful tool for developing some empathy and putting yourself in other people's shoes."

Smith wasn't sure he would want to show the video to a Grade 3 or Grade 4 class, but he said he certainly has no problem with junior high school students watching it.

"We see the kids that are bullied, we see the kids that are harassed, we see the kids that cut and self-harm. We see the kids that have suicidal thoughts," he said.

"Those are our kids that come here because they're not finding support in their schools."

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