An explosive science demonstration in an Okanagan classroom resulted in nearly $60,000 in damages and a teacher’s move to a new school.
On Feb. 16, 2018, Allan David Penner, a 28-year teaching veteran working at Lake Country’s George Elliot Secondary School, made a chemical volcano to demonstrate the decomposition process of ammonium dichromate.
“District science teachers are expected to be familiar with Material Safety Data Sheets prior to using chemicals,” reads the B.C. Commission for Teacher Regulation decision made public on Tuesday, June 16.
Penner did not review the materials prior to his demonstration and as such did several things contrary to safety regulations. He did not wear safety goggles, a lab coat or proper gloves and he conducted the demonstration sans a ventilation hood, risking chemical exposure to his students and himself.
Penner’s most dangerous mistake, however, came in his disposal of the chemicals — he used water to wet down the residue, wrapped it in paper towel and threw it in the garbage.
“In doing so, Penner did not consider the possibility that the residue contained unreduced amounts of an oxidizing chemical which was not sufficiently cooled down and which created a fire hazard when thrown in the garbage can,” reads the decision.
That residue reacted with the garbage in the can starting the fire that caused $59,655.99 worth of damage.
The Central Okanagan School District issued Penner a letter of discipline on Sept. 25, 2018, and suspended him for 10 days without pay and transferred him to a new school.
The matter then made its way to the commission, which reached an agreement with Penner on May 20 to suspend his teaching licence for three days. Penner agreed his actions constituted professional misconduct.
Petition calls for Penner’s return
A petition on change.org is calling for Penner to return to George Ellliot.
As of Wednesday June 17, the petition had accumulated over 700 signatures.
“Mr. Penner is one of the most valued, loved, and funniest teachers in the Lake Country community. Students everywhere greatly enjoy his science classes, humorous stories, nature walks, teaching techniques, patience, and intelligence,” reads the petition.
“He has been at George Elliot Secondary for more than 20 years, and we, the undersigned, hereby state that we want him to once again return to teach at our school.”
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