Veteran educator Matthew Farley is calling on the Ministry of Education to stop sending mixed signals and instead send a strong, clear message to students and their parents that violence against teachers will not be tolerated.
Farley told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that education officials must not allow the authority of teachers to be undermined by students, and insisted that action must be taken to halt the practice before it gets out of control.
Speaking in the wake of an incident this week at the Ellerslie Secondary School where a student allegedly spat at and kicked a teacher in her genitals, the retired principal accused education authorities of being soft on the issue of discipline in schools.
“I think that a strongly worded message must come from the Ministry and not a statement that sends mixed signals. I think for sometime we have been sending a lot of mixed signals with what is happening in respect to our schools. We have to have a clear position that under no conditions we will tolerate student-on-teacher violence [or] student-on-student violence,” Farley said.
Following a meeting yesterday with management and staff of Ellerslie school, the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union and the Barbados Union of Teachers called for the expulsion of the student.
However, Minister of Education Ronald Jones also said yesterday that the matter must be investigated thoroughly and the correct process followed before action is taken.
“You can’t just expel…. Every child has a right to be heard and defend itself just as every teacher has a right to he heard and defend him or herself,” Jones declared.
Farley told Barbados TODAY he supported the minister’s position, saying while he did not believe the child should be expelled, he felt it would be difficult for her to continue her education at the Black Rock, St Michael institution.
He recommended that the 13-year-old student undergo psychiatric or psychological evaluation in order to determine whether she should continue to attend a mainstream secondary school, or if alternative arrangements should be made.
“I don’t think she should be just dumped or cast off as a nobody. We need to investigate her domestic situation to see exactly what might predispose a student to lash out in this type of way. [However], I don’t think that it would be prudent for her to be allowed to continue to attend that same school and have the teacher working in the same space as her,” the former Graydon Sealy Secondary School principal said.
Farley said when he headed the Garrison, St Michael school he had made it clear that violence against teachers would not be tolerated. He also recalled that in one case a student was expelled for attacking a teacher.
“And the teachers knew that they got the support of the management of the school in these situations because anytime that teachers feel they are not being supported by the principal or even by the Ministry of Education we will have problems and the students will think that they are in charge,” he explained. (AH)