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Former Dildo resident says physical abuse he experienced in school should not go on today

Marvin Gosse is speaking up about the abuse he says he experienced at school in the 1980s in rural Newfoundland.
Marvin Gosse is speaking up about the abuse he says he experienced at school in the 1980s in rural Newfoundland. - Submitted

DILDO, NL — A former Dildo resident is speaking up on his past experiences with abuse as a student living in rural Newfoundland.

Marvin Gosse, 41, is currently living in Ontario where he owns and operates his own business. He says he’s satisfied with the life he lives; however, this has not always been the case.

Growing up in Dildo, Gosse attended several schools in the area, such as Woodland Junior High and St. Augustines, which has since been torn down. Gosse said after hearing recent allegations of teacher-on-student bullying at Woodland Elementary in Dildo, he could no longer hold back the experiences he had as a young student in the 1980s, which he has kept to himself up until this point.

“It must have ignited a flame in me or something, because I can’t let this go, I really can’t,” Gosse said.

Gosse made a point to differentiate between what he views as discipline and what he claims was downright abuse. Having been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as well as several other mental diagnoses in his early years, Gosse said the treatment he received at school was far from simple discipline.

“We grew up in the 80s, the strap was around – that was discipline, to get a slap on the hands with the belt or whatever. This, what happened to me, and plenty of other young guys? That was abuse,” he said. “To get punched in the face, or have my head slammed into a wall and go home dizzy? That’s abuse, plain and simple. I was a bit of a hellion, sure, I wasn’t the perfect student by no means, but no one deserved to be treated like that.”

Parents didn’t know

Throughout all this, his parents were none the wiser, Gosse told the Compass. He said they only found out after he opened up about it in recent weeks following allegations coming out of Woodland Elementary. He said he fears students in Newfoundland may still be experiencing abuse in school and are afraid or unable to speak up about it.

This is something Gosse hopes to change. He explained to the Compass that in Ontario, parents can access records detailing a teacher’s history – including write-ups received throughout their careers or any other issues they may have encountered – giving parents the ability to determine whether they want said teacher to teach their children. In the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD), no such thing exists.

“The only thing the school board can really go on to track a teacher’s performance is if they receive complaints from parents, and from what I can tell, those complaints don’t go very far,” Gosse said. “I’m almost certain that if parents could check and see what kind of history a lot of teachers have (in Newfoundland), they would think twice about letting their kids be in their classroom. “I think Newfoundland needs that, and that’s something I want to see happen.”

Ken Morrissey, director of communications for NLESD, spoke with the Compass in a previous interview about complaints to the board and how they’re handled.

“Newfoundland and Labrador English School District has high expectations of teachers and all staff who work with us to support the goals of student success and achievement,” he said in a statement in the the Feb. 13 issue of the Compass. “School staff are charged with providing a safe and caring learning environment that provides the opportunity for all students to succeed. “Further, all teachers are expected to abide by the code of ethics of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association.”

After speaking with parents of children in the area, as well as fellow classmates from his time as a student, Gosse said he hopes to raise awareness of what could go on behind the walls of a school. His goal is for the school board to provide parents with more information about teachers.
He explained that several former classmates who either experienced the same things he did or witnessed it happening have shown nothing but support since he opened up about the subject.

“Don’t get me wrong – not every teacher I grew up with was like this, and not every teacher today is like it either. Not at all,” Gosse said. “But they do exist, and they’re safe behind all these privacy policies. “I don’t want to see teachers getting fired, but they also can’t keep getting away with it. No student should be afraid to go to school in the mornings because of the way they’re treated by a teacher. I don’t want to hear of students ending up like I did when I was in school.”

Gosse hopes to not only see action taken against abusive teachers in the province, but to provide a means for parents and students dealing with such issues to come forward and give their problems a voice.

“If I have to be that voice, or the face of it all, then so be it. I’ll gladly take on that role and do what I have to do.”

chris.lewis@cbncompass.ca

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