Veteran educator Matthew Farley has joined the debate over a row between principal of Springer Memorial School Pauline Benjamin and the mother of a 14-year-old pupil over a wrapper.
The principal has reportedly benched the student for an infraction that dates back to the last school term, upsetting the mother, Elecia Weekes, who is now demanding a transfer.
The issue revolves around the pupil’s refusal to pick up the wrapper after she was asked to do so by her year head, making it clear her mother had not sent her to school to pick up garbage.
She was suspended for a week and has since refused to comply with the principal’s order to pick up litter.
Farley said the girl was disrespectful and the principal had every right to punish her.
“Absolutely, I am backing that principal,” he said.
“I have had students who have told me ‘my mother ain’t send me to school to pick up no garbage’. I have people who said to me, ‘if I don’t litter then the janitor wouldn’t have work’. And many adults see it that way,” the former educator said.
But the teenager’s mother is having none of it, blasting the school for punishing her daughter.
Weekes said her daughter should not be made to pick up garbage and argued that in any event she has been punished enough.
She also claimed that some teachers were taunting the child and that the only way to resolve the issue was to have her transferred to another school.
“She said to me that last week a teacher who taught her in third form went to her and asked if she was too pretty to pick up garbage and she said yes. The teacher says ‘well you are not getting to do any studies so you gine still end up working behind the garbage truck anyway.’
“Now this same teacher . . . said to her that if she had asked her to pick up the garbage and she had refused she would have given her two big cuffs. I kept her home today, I kept her home yesterday and I think I am keeping her home the rest of the week,” the mother told Barbados TODAY.
However, Weekes has refused an offer to place the 14-year-old at Daryll Jordan Secondary School (formerly St Lucy Secondary), saying she made it clear to the education official who contacted her that she did not want her daughter to go from the “frying pan directly into the fire”.
“I said to her, ‘no, I am not agreeing to my child being sent to St Lucy Secondary because I am concerned that is jumping from out of the frying pan directly into the fire. I am not accepting that’.
“But I am at the point where a transfer is the best thing for the child because even if the matter gets settled, I believe that she would be still targeted by certain teachers.
“I think the best thing for my child is a transfer. But you have to consult with me as a parent. Don’t call and tell me that you transferring my child to St Lucy. Hell no. Let me and my child at least have the chance to choose,” the mother declared.
Minister of Education Ronald Jones came to the principal’s defence in Parliament yesterday, saying he was convinced Benjamin was not picking on the child.
“But today somebody would tell a principal, ‘I ain’t picking up that’; the indiscipline of it! And that is being encouraged? I don’t believe any principal is going to pick on a child. Teachers don’t just go walking about throwing paper about the place. And there are comments that the janitor is paid to do that, what kind of foolishness is this?
“What kind of nonsense am I hearing? Discipline must be the order of the day. Wherever we see rockiness amongst ourselves, we have to speak to that. What are we saying to our young people? This is too much disrespect of our environment. There is too much disrespect for law and order,” the minister said.
Efforts to reach the principal were unsuccessful up to the time of publication.