Manitoba student told not to smudge before school

Stephen Bunn says he has been told by his school he cannot smudge before attending classes....

Stephen Bunn says he has been told by his school he cannot smudge before attending classes. (YouTube screengrab)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:11 PM ET

A Brandon, Man. teen says he has been told by his school he cannot smudge before attending classes.

Stephen Bunn, 17, said teachers at his school mistook the smell of burned sage -- which he did in the morning as part of a purification ritual -- for marijuana.

The Aboriginal teen said one morning in gym class, teachers ordered him to go to the office because they suspected he had been smoking up.

When he went to school a second time after smudging, he was sent home for the day. About a month later, he said he was called into the office again.

"(The principal) said I'm not allowed to smudge before I come to school because it gives off a bad smell and people will be looking at me funny," Bunn said. "He doesn't want that stinking up the school."

Bunn said he "felt kind of hurt" by the reaction of school administration.

"It's been a while since I smudged myself because of how they made me feel," he said.

In an e-mailed statement, the Brandon School Division said they have "engaged our elder to work with staff, students and families who observe the practice to ensure that the practice is carried out in such a way as to minimize any discomfort for students and staff within its schools."

The division also noted it is under a legal obligation to comply with a scent and fragrance free policy, but they are still working out how to implement the policy.


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