Chad Ashe music video 2

Too cool for school? Teacher suspended over his own hip hop music video

We spoke to the Châteauguay high-school teacher and rapper who was suspended for 10 days following a complaint from an anonymous parent.

When I heard that Chad Ashe, a 34-year-old high-school teacher in Châteauguay, who’s also a recording artist, had been suspended for a 10-day period for showing his students his latest music video, naturally the first thing I did was check out the video. 

Imagine my surprise when, instead of being treated to something crass or offensive, I saw a good-looking couple (yes, the woman featured in the video is his real-life girlfriend) jumping in a backyard pool, throwing some food on the grill, drinking some bubbly, walking hand in hand through some meadows and basically living life.

Not being able to detect anything compromising in the visuals (please don’t tell me that his tatted chest or her butt-bearing bikini bottom are valid reasons because I’ll have to send you back to 1955), I turned my attention to the lyrics of “Wahala.” 

“’Cause by the end of the night, by the end of this song, at the end of your life, when everyone’s gone, Imma still care for you, still ride for you, live and die by you, baby that’s the truth.” 

—Chad Ashe lyrics


I can see why someone would lodge a complaint. There’s clearly nothing more offensive than a man in love professing his devotion — and doing it to a hip hop beat. 

Full disclosure: I’m a sucker for a catchy, feel-good R&B tune so Ashe’s song has already been added to my Spotify playlist. If nothing else, the upside to this situation Ashe finds himself in might be more exposure for his music.

Sarcasm aside, this is a teacher with a spotless record currently in an unfair predicament due to a parent’s highly questionable and quite possibly racially motivated complaint. 

A strong connection to his students 

Châteauguay high-school teacher Chad Ashe

When I spoke to Ashe, he told me he has yet to receive an official, written reason for his 10-day suspension. The unofficial, verbal reason he was given is that he can be seen in his bathing suit in the video. 

“I teach teens,” Ashe tells me. “Occupation Double, which shows far more than bathing suits, is rated ‘8 years and older’ so I’m not quite sure what to make of any of this.”

Chad has been employed by the New Frontiers School Board for five years. Not only has he never had any complaints, he says, but he’s often been the go-to teacher for the Alternative program, where kids who have attendance problems are often placed. 

“I have a strong connection with my kids,” he says, “they can relate to me.”

Back in September when school started, Ashe followed his routine of asking his students about themselves. “And then I shared things they should know about me,” he says. “One of those things was that I’m a recording artist. A student asked to see a video, so I showed them maybe 40 seconds of ‘Wahala’ and that was it.”

Two and a half months later, on Nov. 12, Ashe received a call from his principal telling him there was an issue with one parent over the video and that he was being suspended for 10 days. “After the Châteauguay Soleil picked up the story, it suddenly became an issue with parents,” he says. 

Not your conventional-looking teacher

Chad Ashe music video
Chad Ashe and his girlfriend in the video for “Wahala.”

Ashe says he’s occasionally had issues in the past with racist remarks or been made to feel out of place in school establishments, but always brushed it off because, “the kids are so worth it.” He loves teaching at a school with so much diversity, with Indigenous, Black and anglo kids all part of his classroom. 

“I get it, I look different,” he says. “I’m a young Black teacher with dreads and a high-top fade, but I’ve always dressed and acted professionally. At the end of the day, my audience, the people I’m trying to reach, are teens.” 

Ashe, who comes from a musical family (his mother is singer Sylvie DesGroseillers) has always been involved with the industry, both as an artist and DJ. He’s also a Cross-Fit coach and finds that it was easy transferring that positive energy and encouragement as a fitness instructor to motivating his students as an educator. 

While Ashe says that he never bothered to address questionable comments or behaviour before, he said he couldn’t let this unwarranted suspension happen without fighting it. 

“This is my name, my career, my legacy.” 

Ashe attributes the suspicion with which such an innocuous video was treated to Quebec media’s overrepresentation of Blacks as inherently bad. “The only representations of Black people some people see in the media or on TV shows here are of Blacks as gang members, pimps, fraudsters. If that’s all you see, those are the conclusions you’ll reach about us. To watch my music video and say that it would negatively affect someone or make them to do something negative is just ridiculous.”

Ironically, the fact that Ashe may currently be treated differently for not looking like the average educator is what could make him a more effective teacher with certain student groups. Multiple studies have found that when your teacher looks more like you, you may, in fact, do better in school. 

Double standards at play?

It’s hard to take this complaint and the school’s reaction to it seriously when one considers the double standards of recent local incidents of teachers continuing to teach for years even after students denounced them for racist behaviour. Montreal North teacher Vincent Ouellette was able to brazenly use his platform as an authority figure to spew his xenophobia, bigotry and racism, yet remained in his position for decades. It was only when a student videotaped him gleefully repeating the n-word during a Zoom class, and after a public outcry, that he was finally fired. 

Back in April, a Chicoutimi CEGEP professor got his job back after he was fired for telling an Indigenous student that their grandmother was probably raped because the student had blue eyes and blonde hair. His union fought to get him reinstated because the punishment was, according to them, too harsh. The same article also mentions a professor from Valleyfield who got their job back after calling an Asian student an “eggroll.” 

Just Monday, Simon Lamarre, an elementary school teacher who pled guilty to engaging in voyeurism and filming teenage girls’ private parts without their knowledge was given a suspended sentence and in three years will be able to get rid of his criminal record and possibly be in a position to teach again. 

And yet here we have a teacher with an unblemished record being suspended because of unspecified “parental concerns” over a tame music video. A reasonable person can’t help but wonder if there’s a double standard at play here, and whether a) the parent would have reacted the same way to a white teacher filming a music video, where the teacher didn’t have dreads and full-body tattoos, and b) the school board would have been as quick to suspend them after a single complaint. 

I reached out to the school board to ask why they followed through with such a questionable complaint, but I have yet to receive an answer. 

Ashe, who says he’s been in touch with his union, would have liked to have seen the complaint handled differently. “Just come to me directly and talk to me… I would have apologized to the parent if it upset them, it would have never happened again. Now, my kids have been off-schedule for two weeks, and for what?” 

Ashe says he hopes to soon sit down with the school’s administrators and the director of the school board and resolve this. 

“I want to make sure this doesn’t happen again to anyone who looks different.”

[UPDATED DEC. 1: The 10-day suspension of Chad Ashe is coming to an end — after 15 days! — and he will return to teaching on Monday. He plans to file a complaint.] ■

Read more editorials by Toula Drimonis here.