MONTREAL - A Grade 10 classroom full of teenagers sat uncharacteristically quiet as their eyes locked on the gruesome video that played before them.
The students had urged their teacher to play the infamous video believed to show the killing and dismemberment of Chinese university student Jun Lin, says 17-year-old Maude Aubin-Boivin, who was in the classroom.
According to the account offered by several students, it all happened quickly. They say the class held a vote. The students elected, by a margin of about 22 to 3, to view the video. After all, many students had already seen it on their own.
CAUTION: GRAPHIC CONTENT MAY DISTURB SOME READERS.
So, they say, their popular 29-year-old teacher allegedly gave in. The students were shown parts of a video so disturbing that, according to Montreal police, even seasoned detectives who have seen it were troubled by its contents.
The teacher was immediately suspended with pay, while the school board investigates his case. Soon, he could face even harsher punishment.
Montreal police said Wednesday that investigators were trying to determine if charges could be laid against the unidentified teacher.
But many students interviewed outside the school Wednesday staunchly defended their teacher. They said the teacher gives his time coaching hockey, just had a baby, and is always willing to help students with problems inside or outside the classroom.
They have launched a petition on his behalf.
The students didn't think watching the video was a big deal — particularly since so many of them said they had already viewed the footage, which is widely available online.
The incident began during a chat about current events — which is how the history-and-ctizienship class often begins. Students were invited to discuss what was on their mind.
They mentioned the video, which purportedly shows adult-film actor Luka Rocco Magnotta killing the Chinese foreign student. Aubin-Boivin said the overwhelming vote from students was what convinced their initially hesitant teacher to agree.
As the gory contents rolled across the screen, Aubin-Boivin said some of her peers appeared to regret their decision.
"There are some who turned away, that's for sure," she said of fellow students at the west-end Cavelier-De LaSalle High School.
"They didn't want to watch, they lowered their eyes."
The school board, which declined to confirm the teacher's name, condemned the alleged June 4 action "as inappropriate as it was offensive."
"The incident is being taken very seriously," the board said in a statement Wednesday.
That same day, the teacher was suspended. School staff informed students that a team of psychologists was available to deal with any problems that might have resulted from watching the video.
The board said the teacher gave his side of the story Wednesday to school officials, who promised to make a swift decision on his future. He had been under contract as a replacement through the end of the year, and has also taught phys ed in the past.
Montreal police, meanwhile, said they were also examining the case. But spokesman Yannick Ouimet indicated that no plaintiffs had come forward yet.
"Investigators are looking at this," he said.
Back at the school, students lauded their teacher. They said he was always willing to help them with school, family and other personal problems.
"He's a very good teacher," Aubin-Boivin said. "Honestly, his courses are super fun... He's a teacher who knows his job and who knows how to teach."
She said maybe it wasn't a great decision to show that video but, still, she didn't believe the teacher should lose his job over it.
She suggested the students deserve as much blame.
"(They) asked to watch it," she said Wednesday, before heading into the school to write an exam.
Aubin-Boivin said the students who voted against watching the video stayed in the class anyway, and viewed it. They skipped over some of the most disturbing parts and discussed its contents as a group afterwards, she added.
Before he allegedly showed the video, she says the teacher warned the class: "He said, 'Watch out, for sure there are images that could be shocking.' "
Aubin-Boivin said the contents were troubling — but she's fine.
"For sure, at the beginning I found it tough," she said. "But I wasn't traumatized or anything. We see so much these days on TV."
A Queen's University education expert, who trains teachers, said the alleged decision to show the film to the class could be a case of professional misconduct. Benjamin Kutsyruba, an assistant professor, said society entrusts teachers to provide care for children.
He said new and popular teachers often face additional pressure from students.
"If you want to remain a popular teacher," he said, "very often teachers do something that would be in favour of the students' requests."
A video circulating on the Internet — called 1 Lunatic, 1 Ice Pick — is believed by authorities to show the 33-year-old Lin's murder in Montreal several weeks ago.
It shows someone stabbing a man and dismembering him. It then shows the killer committing acts of sex and what appears to be cannibalism on parts of the corpse.
Magnotta, a male escort and porn actor originally named Eric Newman, is awaiting extradition from Germany and faces murder charges in Lin's slaying.
A memorial is planned in Montreal for the Concordia University student on Thursday night.
One student at Cavelier-De LaSalle, who was not in the class, said he had trouble sleeping after watching the "disgusting" video a couple of weeks ago outside of school.
"But it really doesn't bother me too much. I was still able to come to school and take care of my business," said the 16-year-old.
The decision to view it in class, he added, didn't change much for most students: "There's not a lot of people who haven't watched the video."
Another student, a 14-year-old girl, said she only watched part of it after following a link posted on Facebook.
"I wasn't scared and I wasn't traumatized — it's just that it's very intense," she said.
A Montreal high-school teacher, speaking to The Canadian Press, says he has heard from several of his students who have watched the video at home and immediately regretted it.
Quebec Education Minister Michelle Courchesne expressed anger over the incident.
"It's horrifying," Courchesne told reporters in Quebec City. "It's a very, very serious and total lack of judgment. I don't see any educational value in that (video)."
-With files by Melanie Marquis
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