WINNIPEG - Two academics are slamming Winnipeg's two "lap-dancing" high school teachers for what they charge is crossing a professional line, and likely severely damaging their credibility.
While the Winnipeg School Division investigates the conduct of the male and female teacher who spurred a storm of controversy with a raunchy and lewd dance performance last week in front of students at Churchill High School, psychologist Toby Rutner said the pair appears to have severely hurt their image as authority figures guiding impressional youths.
"I don't think it will have a devastating psychological effect on a kid because he witnessed two dogs going at it on the front lawn," Rutner said. "But this is a school, and these are teachers. Now it's difficult for us to respect them. In fact, it makes parents and everyone else question their judgment.
"Do we want people who have poor judgment in constant contact with children? What else might they do? That's where the damage is done, if there is any."
The spectre created by the videotaped dance in the gymnasium, he stressed, is hypocrisy in the school system.
"After that happens, when that person attempts to discipline them or act like an authority figure, how effective will that person be?" Rutner asked. "What if it's your church minister doing that, and then the guy gets up the next day and delivers some kind of sermon? How can you take him seriously?"
The female physical education teacher has been identified by students as Chrystie Fitchner. The name of the male teacher, reportedly newer to the school, hasn't been confirmed.
Both teachers are off work with pay while the division probes the Feb. 17 incident, which occurred during what many have described as a "dance-off" among teachers during a "spirit" rally. More than 100 students in grades 9 to 12 watched as the man performed a lap dance for the woman, appearing to rub against her and simulate oral sex while she sat in a chair, laughing and playing along.
An amateur video of the performance has gone viral online on Facebook, YouTube and other websites while generating intense controversy in Winnipeg and worldwide media attention. A second amateur video of the event has since appeared online, with a different angle of the dance.
Chrysta Van Walleghem, a Grade 10 student at Churchill High School, shot the second video. She said she was shocked by her teachers' behaviour.
"It was really funny at first then it just got too inappropriate to laugh at," said the 15-year-old. "I don't think they should lose their licences to teach but they should be shuffled to a new school."
Jerome Cranston, an assistant professor of education at the University of Manitoba, said the man and woman -- both apparently early in their careers -- took their steamy joke into "the exact terrain" that would-be educators are warned about during their training. There's "a line they shouldn't cross" in professional judgment and behaviour, Cranston said, adding the teachers' conduct disappoints him.
"Whether they like it or not, teachers work in the public domain. And what they do, and choose to do in that public domain -- which includes classrooms and gymnasiums -- is public purview," Cranston said.
"And we tell them they will be judged, for better or for worse, as public figures."