By Hank Bonner, TORONTO – Michael Conti, a Grade 10 student honor student at Toronto’s prestigious Central
Technical School found himself at the centre of a
fierce dispute between his parents, a highly-revered teacher, and
school administrators Thursday morning.
The incident came to light shortly after dinnertime
Wednesday, when Conti’s mother Rita discovered a recently
graded paper at the bottom of his knapsack.
In addition to the failing grade on the Civics CHV201
paper, the handwritten comments from his instructor
Ms. Erin Woodward strongly alleged that Conti had
participated in an heinous act of plagiarism.
“Our son is a good boy.” Rita Conti asserted early
Thursday, as a light smattering of snow fell over a still mostly sleeping Toronto.
“No drugs. No fights. No nothing. He
come home from school, play road hockey, do his
homework and watch his shows on tv. Maybe sometimes
he plays video games with his friend. He is a normal,
Ms Woodward, 32, who inspired members of the media earlier this year with her decision to continue teaching at Central T even after having her life threatened by gang members who refused to take part in her hip hop dance programme, vehemently defended her actions.
“Right from the introduction paragraph I got the feeling that
I had read certain exerts before. Okay, here’s an
example: ‘In the criminal justice system, the people
are represented by two separate, yet equally
important, groups: the police who investigate crime
and the district attorneys who prosecute the
offenders’. That’s from something…right?” asked Woodward.
The boy’s father, Toronto Councilman Michael Conti Sr, insists that the burden of proof is the responsibility of the teacher.
“I called the lady there at the school and I says for
her to show me. You say Mikey ripped off his paper? Show me the book, show me the website. You got nothing. It’s one of them Habeas Corpes things.’”
“Okay first of all, that is absolutely not what Habeas
Corpes means,” Woodward countered from her
spacious Roncesvalles home. “Secondly, regardless of my
comments that certain sentences sound extremely familiar to me, the paper was entirely off topic.”
The school’s principal Don E. Langston expressed regret
that the situation had escalated to the point that it
“It is very very unfortunate that Ms. Woodward
chose to speak with you (The Brutal Times) without discussing this with
me first. But that is a separate issue that will be
dealt with internally,” he said.
Indicating with his body language that he had not personally read the
paper in question, Langston shrugged off suggestions that Central Tech had descended into a state of anarchy over the Conti essay.
“I’m absolutely confident that,
in a timely manner, Ms. Woodward will provide me with
concrete examples of instances where Mr. Conti has
taken liberties,” he stated.
“I know it’ll come to me. I just can’t put my finger
on it. It’s driving me crazy,” said Woodward.
“But I stand by the grade. Take a look at the concluding
paragraph: ‘And so from the examples presented here,
we can clearly see that in the criminal justice
system, sexually based offenses are considered
especially heinous. In New York City, the dedicated
detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are
members of an elite squad, known as the Special
Victims Unit.’ Now what possible relevance does that
have to The Indian Act of 1876?”
Although he was unable to be reached for comment, sources
close to 15 year old Michael say the teen is “very
embarrassed” about the incident at his school.
According to a text message sent to an unnamed source,
Michael expressed his disappointment at all of the
“trippin’” that the situation has caused amongst his