A “very cordial” meeting at the Ministry of Education today failed to resolve the row over a 14-year-old Springer Memorial School student’s refusal to pick up a wrapper more than two months ago.
However, a lawyer for the pupil’s mother Elecia Weekes reported progress in the talks with Minister of Education Ronald Jones, although there was no decision on when the girl would return to the classroom.
Weekes, her lawyer Steve Straughn and child advocate Shelley Ross emerged from the closed-door meeting about two hours after the scheduled 10 a.m. start to reveal little to the waiting media.
A usually outspoken Weekes was tightlipped, but Straughn said in a brief statement that the parties had agreed to work in the child’s best interest and were putting structures in place to ensure her return to school.
“So basically we had a very cordial meeting in this matter and we are looking forward to a resolution in the matter. The main point is to get [the student] back into school and to get her that education. We are currently in discussions to have the matter resolved. We have not arrived at an end to the matter but we are getting there,” Straughn said.
Jones called the meeting after a wave of criticism over his inaction on a dispute that began over two months ago.
The student was suspended for refusing to pick up a wrapper after she was ordered to do so by a teacher and the principal.
At the end of her suspension she was kept away from classes because of her continued refusal to pick up litter, her mother claimed.
The already contentious situation took a turn for the worse when police were called in to Springer Memorial by Weekes on Monday after her daughter was ordered off the compound by Principal Pauline Benjamin.
The Barbados Government Information Service later issued a brief release quoting Chief Education Officer Karen Best as saying that the pupil had been transferred to Ellerslie Secondary School.
The release said the principals of both Ellerslie and Springer had been informed of the transfer, adding that the fourth form student’s records showed that Ellerslie was one of her options in the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Entrance Examination.
Weekes had previously revealed that she had rejected the proposed transfer and insisted on being given a say on which school her daughter was transferred to.
While today’s meeting was in progress a solitary protestor camped outside the Ministry’s gates with placard in hand expressing support for the Springer principal.
With the unforgiving mid-morning sun beating down on him, the protestor, Stephen Pollard, called on Jones to stamp out rudeness from Barbadian schools.
“If Mr Jones don’t do something about what is happening now, this child case will be a full test case for the last straw of education in Barbados because young people will resist the teachers,” said Pollard, a retired public servant who worked in education.
“When I was working I saw children resisting teachers, I saw school children beating teachers and I saw teachers beating children physically and these things shouldn’t happen. I pick up papers at school and it ain’t do me nothing,” Pollard said.