“Traumatized and hurt!”
That’s how president of the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) Mary Redman this evening summed up the feelings of the Ellerslie School teacher, who is currently on certified sick leave following last week’s violent attack in which she was reportedly kicked in her genitals and spat on by one of her students.
Up until then, lawmen were said to be continuing investigations into the matter reported to them by the teacher.
However, Redman said the BSTU was maintaining strong support for the “soft spoken” and “quiet” educator, whom she said had been left “severely, psychologically traumatized and she has been hurt physically”.
The umbrella union has therefore summoned its members to an emergency meeting at 1:30 p.m. Friday at the Barbados Workers Union headquarters at Solidarity House to deal with the Ellerslie situation, as well as the wider issue of violence in schools.
Asked if this was an indication that BSTU-led protests were in store, Redman said her union intended to be guided by its membership on the way forward.
However, she took serious issue with comments reportedly made by the girl’s mother, as well as child advocate Shelly Ross in defence of the alleged student-on-teacher violence, which the BSTU head maintains is deserving of nothing short of the student’s expulsion.
“Persons should expect that in the position of responsibility that I hold, that before taking the position that I would have taken on behalf of the union, I would have done my research and therefore, any position that I take in relation to that situation is one based on fuller knowledge than persons out there may have available to them,” she told Barbados TODAY.
In support of the Ellerslie teacher, whom she also described as “well respected and well liked” by her colleagues and as having an “impeccable record” within the teaching service for the past 16 years, Redman insisted that based on the information she had received “on all sides”, there was no evidence to show that the teacher was aggressive toward the student.
She therefore questioned the “level of truth” of a report carried in today’s press surrounding the incident.
While noting that the article suggested that there was no evidence so far to suggest that the student was not the aggressor, Redman did not rule out that this would ultimately be found to be the case.
And in response to suggestions that the teacher was kicked while attempting to pin down the student, Redman insisted, “Those are certainly not the reports that we have”.
Amid suggestions that the matter may end up in litigation, the BSTU head was careful to point out that it was the teacher, and not the student who had “immediately” reported last Wednesday’s incident, which occurred at school, to police at the Black Rock police station. She also highlighted the fact that not only her union, but the Barbados Union of Teachers and the Principal Major Errol Brathwaite were “all in agreement that a recommendation for expulsion of the student would be made based on the facts that were known by all three parties”.
The teachers’ spokeswoman also confirmed that a letter to that effect had been delivered to the Ellerslie Chairman Terrence Inniss the following day, but to date there had been no official response.
Therefore, she said it was “amazing” to hear Ross in particular engaging in teacher bashing following the incident and calling for the sacking of the teacher at the centre of the reported attack.
Redman also took issue with comments in the press, which have been attributed to the girl’s mother to the effect that the child was not the aggressor in the attack. She noted that this was coming from the same mother who had admitted to visiting the school a “few times” for the child, which Redman said could only have been in response to a disciplinary problem.
The BSTU official said she was fully aware that due process had to be followed with regard to its recommendation for expulsion, adding that the union was intent on taking the matter to its logical conclusion.
However, she said the situation highlighted deeper issues in the school system, while reiterating the union’s ten-year call for the establishment of a “special facility” to deal with students who do not fit into and or cannot function in the “normal” school system.
Redman, who has been heading the BSTU for the past 11 years, said such a facility should make provision for a “residential element to it so that students who do not fit into the school environment can have a chance at rehabilitation in situations where they have to be expelled from a normal school setting.
“This whole idea of an alternative institution is a BSTU initiative … persons are now talking about it because I have brought it up in the public arena, not for the first time,” she said, while noting that former Chief Education Officer Wendy-Griffith Watson was supportive of the idea.
However, she said it should not be confused with the short-term student programme at the Edna Nicholls Centre in St Peter, as she also called for closer scrutiny of children referred to the juvenile liaison scheme.