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Teacher Claims Religious Beliefs, Won't Wear Device So Student Can Hear Lectures

William Sears, a hearing-impaired student at Memorial University in St. John's, Canada, claims Professor Ranee Panjabi refused to wear a FM transmitting device that would assist him in hearing lectures because of Panjabi's religious beliefs.

"When she said she would not wear the FM system, it was effectively saying to me that 'I will not teach you,' because I need that FM system in order to hear the instructor," Sears told CBC News.

Memorial University said it has reached "an acceptable accommodation" with Sears, but refused to say more because of privacy concerns.

Panjabi has not responded to requests from CBC News for an interview.

Sears has switched to a different class because Panjabi would not wear the device, and added:

"(Panjabi) said she had some sort of agreement with the Blundon Centre or with the university saying she wouldn't have to wear an FM system because of religious reasons.

"I told her that was unacceptable to me, and as I gathered up my things and started to leave the classroom, Dr. Panjabi asked for my name so that she could strike it from the attendance list."

Sears said he dropped the class when he got home.

CBC News reported in 1996 that the university took the side of another student after Panjabi refused to wear a transmitting device, and Panjabi was reprimanded over the same issue in 1985.

Sears' father, Bill Sears, has contacted the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association and the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission, and says the organizations are both investigating the incident.

Canadian Hard of Hearing Association Executive Director Leon Mills recently told Canadian radio station VOCM that this is not the first time he has heard this type of complain about Panjabi.

Mills said that during a previous incident, a representative of the religion practiced by Panjabi said there was no religious commandment against wearing the electronic device.

Sources: CBC News, VOCM / Photo credit: ikesters/Flickr


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