02/09/2015 09:36 EST | Updated 04/11/2015 05:59 EDT

Melody Torcolacci, assailed for anti-vaccine teaching, takes leave from course

A professor who faced controversy over anti-vaccination teaching materials at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., is stepping away from the course, the school says.

"Melody Torcolacci has requested and been granted leave from the teaching of HLTH 102 for the remainder of the term," Queen's spokeswoman Rosie Hales said in an email to CBC News late Monday.

"Discussions around her other classes are ongoing."

Students in Torcolacci's Health 102 course took to social media last week to complain they were tested on slides with unsubstantiated claims, including a discredited study linking vaccines to autism. The university's provost had responded he would look into the complaints.

Torcolacci, a former national champion shot putter and Queen's track coach, is listed by the university as a continuing adjunct.
Torcolacci did not return calls from CBC News.

Students have been talking about the professor for two years, but the discussion recently amplified on social media channels.

Last week, provost Alan Harrison said neither he nor principal Daniel Woolf was previously aware of the concerns about Torcolacci's vaccine views. Harrison was unable to answer questions about Torcolacci's credentials.

The local medical officer of health, Dr. Ian Gemmill, said he wrote to the director of the kinesiology department two years ago to object to Torcolacci's teachings, after he saw the slides from a friend's child.

Gemmill did not receive a written response, but later spoke to the department head, Jean Côté, "and I understood that this would be looked after."