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Parents fuming after Montreal-area teacher allegedly lists students' art for sale online

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An investigation is underway at a Montreal-area high school after multiple parents have alleged their kids' art teacher has been taking drawings that they made in class and listing them for sale on several websites without their knowledge.

CTV News has spoken to two parents who say they are outraged after learning that their kids' art is showing up online, seemingly for a profit.

One of the drawings made by a 12-year-old student who attends Westwood Junior High School in Saint-Lazare, an off-island suburb west of Montreal, has been listed for $151 on at least four different websites.

Her drawings and those of other fellow classmates appear on multiple items, including t-shirts sold for $55, coffee mugs for $41, and even iPhone cases, at $35 a pop.

"I'm extremely disgusted with this person. It's extremely, you know, it's unbelievable," said the young girl's father, Michael Bennett, in an interview.

Bennett said he learned about what happened when his two daughters came home from school on Wednesday and told him that a classmate stumbled upon the teacher's website after searching his name on Google. That student went to inform another teacher, he said, and within minutes, word spread fast around the school about what they had found.

Both daughters’ artworks are listed for sale on various websites.

Joel DeBellefeuille says his 13-year-old son's portrait, painted by a fellow classmate, appears on several items for sale, including mugs, t-shirts, and iPhone cases. (Source: 1-mario-perron.pixels.com)Bennett said the incident raises serious questions about ethics and the school's screening process for the teacher, Mario Perron.

"Is this teacher asking for certain types of projects to be done to be able to sell them? Is he asking for these types of portraits to be done so it meets the market? I'm not quite sure on that aspect. However, I am not impressed at all with this person. I'm not impressed with the school, or the school board," he said, adding that his two kids are also shocked.

"They feel cheated."

When reached by CTV News, the Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB) did not answer questions about how many students are implicated and what the teacher's status is with the school board.

"The Lester B Pearson school board is aware of the situation and is taking these allegations very seriously. An investigation is underway so the school board cannot comment on this matter any further at this point, wrote Darren Becker, director of communications at the LBPSB, in a brief email on Thursday.

Another parent, Joel DeBellefeuille, said his 13-year-old son came home from school Wednesday with the same "unbelievable" story about his art teacher. He said his son found a portrait of him that was drawn by his friend and posted on one of the websites that appear to belong to Perron.

He calls it an "extremely troubling" case that the school needs to address.

"It's unbelievable that he felt that he had the right to utilize and essentially exploit these children's rights and their artwork for his own financial satisfaction," he told CTV News.

According to Perron's LinkedIn profile, he has been a full-time teacher at Westwood Junior since September 2019 and describes himself as a "multidisciplinary studio artist." On his profile, he promotes his personal website — 1-mario-perron.pixels.com — which is where Bennett's and DeBellefeuille's children's artwork can be found.

Perron has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Both parents said they believe there are dozens of students' portraits on the teacher's websites and are calling on the school board to take immediate action.

Philippe Brouillette, an intellectual property lawyer, said children, like anyone else, have moral rights to have their name associated with their work.

"When you’re the owner it’s a negative right, anyone else cannot do anything or copy your work unless you give them the right to do so. That’s what we call a licence. You would give them a licence to use your work or copy your work. Unless you give them the right to licence it you remain the owner of all the rights," he said.

"In this case having the teacher or someone else putting their name would violate the copyright law.

With files from CTV News Montreal's Denise Roberts

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