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B.C. teacher who called student's hijab a 'Halloween costume' reprimanded

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A substitute teacher from B.C.'s Lower Mainland has been reprimanded for repeatedly referring to a student's hijab as a Halloween costume during class.

Donald Joseph Camozzi was working for the Surrey school district when the incident happened on Nov. 1, 2022, according to a consent resolution agreement he signed with B.C.'s commissioner for teacher regulation.

While teaching a class of Grade 10 students, Camozzi asked a teenager wearing a hijab whether she had gone trick-or-treating the night before.

When the student said she doesn't celebrate Halloween, Camozzi referred to her hijab as "a nice Halloween costume" and said "mine is better than yours," referencing the shirt and tie he was wearing.

"(The student) responded by saying that it was not a Halloween costume," the consent agreement reads. "Camozzi said again that his costume was better … while pointing to (the student's) head and hijab."

The teenager then asked the teacher to stop and said his comments weren't funny. When another student disagreed, Camozzi told the girl in the hijab, "(Your classmate) finds it funny."

Word of the incident spread around school, according to the agreement.

The Surrey school district issued Camozzi a letter of discipline in December 2022, and recommended that he undergo cultural sensitivity training offered through the Surrey Teachers' Association and the B.C. Teachers' Federation.

"To date, Camozzi has not completed this training," the consent agreement notes.

The commissioner for teacher regulation subsequently investigated the incident, and decided to issue a further reprimand against Camozzi and require that he complete a course called "Creating a Positive Learning Environment."

The commissioner found the teacher's behaviour "had a negative impact on both the student whose hijab he mocked, those present and those who later learned of his conduct," and also that he had "engaged in similar conduct in the past."

"Camozzi failed to be a proper role model and uphold the diversity, equity and inclusion objectives of the district," the agreement reads.

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