An already contentious situation at Springer Memorial School took a turn for the worse today as police were called in after Principal Pauline Benjamin is reported to have asked the student at the centre of the “wrapper controversy” to leave the compound.
Law enforcement officials were seen outside the school gate around 11 a.m. today accompanying the 14-year-old’s mother Elecia Weekes, along with the child – who has been barred from classes for eight weeks – and Parental Advisor Shelley Ross.
Barbados TODAY understands that Weekes called in the police after her daughter rang to inform her that the principal had allegedly ordered her to get out of the school’s uniform because the child “don’t belong at this school”.
“This morning my daughter called me when I was in my garden and told me she is in the principal’s office and said, ‘mummy the principal says I have to get off the school premises, I don’t belong here, I need to go’.
“Then she calls me back and says, ‘mummy the principal has escorted me to the gate and asked me to take off Springer Memorial’s uniform, I don’t belong at this school,’” Weekes later told Barbados TODAY.
It was not immediately clear what role the police were expected to play, but following a conversation with the law enforcement officials the mother left for the Ministry of Education with the student and Ross in tow, seeking a meeting with Chief Education Officer Karen Best or Senior Education Officer Patricia Warner.
Told that they were both unavailable, Weekes emerged from the reception area and told journalists that she was asked to sign papers confirming a transfer to Ellerslie Secondary, but she refused.
“I go asking for the Chief Education Officer and they said she is not there but somebody is pushing a paper at me to sign for a transfer to Ellerslie.
“My lawyer was trying to get a meeting with them for a long time now and they have been avoiding him,” she charged.
Weekes complained that the entire episode was having a negative impact on her daughter’s education because she was missing out on preparations for upcoming CXC examinations.
She said it also had an emotional effect on the teenager who was suffering from headaches and experiencing sleepless nights.
“This is horrible. Somebody has got to compensate me for what is going on with my child. She asked me if I can give her something to help her sleep because at 3 a.m. she is still tryingwto get to sleep. I told her no.
“We are now into eight weeks. As a mother I am suffering because anything that hurts your child, kills a mother,”
Ross, the producer and editor of the Barbados Children Directory, an online resource guide for parents, said she contacted Weekes to offer her support because the controversy was not just about a student’s refusal to pick up a piece of wrapper, but rather an abuse of power, bullying and child abuse.
Ross argued that the child was within her rights to refuse to pick up the wrapper and it was unfortunate that neither the school nor the Ministry of Education met with the parent in an attempt to find a solution to the problem.
“They put the child out of school and that is illegal. The mother never signed or agreed to a transfer so the child should not be put out of school.
“When she is transferred to a school and will be known as the child with the garbage issue, it is going to have serious psychological effects. What should be done is to leave her at Springer where her friends are.
“Or if we are going to transfer her, she has to go where the environment is right and conducive to learning. Let’s sit down and talk and be reasonable,” Ross said.
Barbados TODAY reported last Friday that Weekes had rejected the offer of a transfer to Ellerslie, claiming her son, who attended that school, had a bad experience there in the past.
However, the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) issued a brief release this evening quoting Best as saying that the pupil had been transferred to the Black Rock,
St Michael learning institution.
“Mrs Best stated that on January 27, the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation issued correspondence to the parent of the child notifying her that her daughter had been transferred to Ellerslie Secondary School with immediate effect,” the BGIS release stated.
It said the principals of both Ellerslie and Springer had been informed of the transfer, adding that the child’s records showed that Ellerslie was one of her options in the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Entrance Examination.
“We have done our due diligence in this matter,” it quoted the chief education officer as saying.
Weekes has insisted on being given a say on which school the daughter is transferred to.
She had previously turned down an offer to transfer the child to Daryll Jordan Secondary School.