Nunavut teacher says he was suspended for posting ISIS photo online

A teacher in Coral Harbour, Nunavut, says he's been suspended after posting a photo online of himself and an ex-girlfriend depicting an ISIS beheading.

Moses Suzuki is a Grade 9 teacher at Sakku School in the community of about 900 people. Last weekend Suzuki posted a photo on a community Facebook page of his face pasted over American journalist James Foley's, and an image of his ex-girlfriend standing next to the Islamic State militant who executed the reporter in 2014.

Some parents voiced outrage about the photo online and said they wouldn't send their children to school on Monday. Of the 285 students registered at the kindergarten to Grade 12 school, 160 students were present on Monday, according to the Department of Education.

Suzuki says he was suspended this week, pending an investigation by the Department of Education.

"I just lost my mind and posted that picture," Suzuki said in an emailed statement to CBC North.

Suzuki said he was in a dispute with his ex-girlfriend and he lashed out.

He calls the photo an "art therapy piece" that he made last month to relieve stress. He says it was only online for a few minutes.

"I fired back with my art, and all of a sudden people are freaking out."

Posting photo was 'a mistake'

The 42-year-old acknowledges that it was a mistake to post the photo online, saying that he removed it before anyone else got offended.

"When I saw a few upset comments, I took it off right away, but then people started to talk and complain," he said.

This is Suzuki's first year teaching in Coral Harbour and he suspects it will be his last, after this incident.

"I would like to apologize to the community for my inappropriate behaviour.

"As a teacher for 23 years, I should have known better. Teaching is like politics, and anything you say can be used or twisted against you."

Education department investigating

A spokesperson with Nunavut's Department of Education confirmed in an email that an investigation is underway "to confirm the circumstances surrounding the incident and to ascertain whether further actions will be required."

In an interview with CBC, Nunavut's assistant deputy minister of education, John MacDonald, said staff and students need to think twice about what they post online.

"If I can think of one positive outcome from what is a very unfortunate incident, it's that it will further remind people... that there are risks to using social media," MacDonald said.

"And we'll reinforce that message to our employees and with our schools."

The Nunavut Teachers' Association would not confirm if Suzuki has been suspended or if it's investigating, saying it does not discuss private information about its members.

The association did provide a social media guidelines brochure that it distributes to Nunavut schools.

The brochure reminds educators that more and more teachers in Nunavut are being disciplined for poor choices online, warning "Don't be next!"

"Don't post information, comments or pictures that would be embarrassing if they appeared on the front page of the newspaper."