For more than a week now, the President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) has been holding back from telling the public all that she knows of the April 13 incident involving a third form teacher and one of her students at the Ellerslie Secondary School, even in the face of what Mary-Ann Redman said were lashes received from members of the public and Government officials.
However, Redman’s gloves finally came off today, as she delivered her tell-all on the controversial incident before a packed gathering of teachers at Solidarity House this afternoon.
Before a large gathering of secondary school teachers, Redman sought to tear to shreds a recent front page story carried in the Nation newspaper, which quoted the girl’s mother and “the self-appointed child advocate” Shelly Ross as saying that it was the teacher and not the student who was the aggressor in the violent attack.
However, giving a point-by-point rebuttal of the Nation story’s, the BSTU head stopped just short of saying it was a complete fabrication.
Nevertheless, she went on to release the BSTU’s own charge sheet on the incident in an effort to substantiate her union’s contention that the student should be expelled. It reads:
1. The teacher did not strike, or provoke, the student” and students who were in the class at the time of the incident would be able to substantiate this.
2. The teacher was told by the student, who was openly rude and disrespectful, ‘you blind, you can’t see that I trying to get a chair’.
3. The teacher did not curse the student, but the girl on the other hand “lathered” the teacher and her mother with curse in front of the classroom.
5. Neither, the teacher nor the student ended up on the floor. However, when the student struck the teacher, she lost balance and a student behind her grabbed her and held her hands and continued to do so throughout the episode.
6. Contrary to what Ms Ross, the self-appointed, children’s advocate has stated, the teacher was “spat at, cuffed in her face, kicked in her genitals and suffered some injury to her chest as the student tried hard to rip her dress off her”.
7. The year head did not have to pull apart the teacher and pupil. During the episode the teacher’s hands were pinned behind her back by another student in the class.
And with a document currently circulating that is purported to be a copy of official notes on the incident filed at the Black Rock police station, Redman said she had never known the police to reveal sensitive information to the public during an active investigation of a matter.
Furthermore, as was charged in the newspaper article, the BSTU president said she has never known police to express an opinion on who an aggressor may not be before active investigations on any matter are completed.
“I am disturbed at this, and it raises serious considerations in my mind on a variety of issues as they affect their mission to protect, serve and reassure,” she said.
The outspoken teachers’ president also indicated that there was a serious need for the school to act with alacrity and seriousness on the matter, as whatever the results were, it had the potential to set a serious precedent in this regard.
“What the ministry decides to do with the student in relation to the alternative schooling is their concern. Perhaps this situation will finally force them to make accommodation for students who do not fit into the normal school system,” she said.
Following last Wednesday’s incident the teacher has proceeded on one month’s sick leave, while the student has been suspended indefinitely.
Redman, who said she saw the teacher yesterday, reported that her face was still visibly swollen with blackness under her eye. She said she remained on medication, and had a follow-up visit today with her doctor.
Additionally, Redman said while the teacher was still traumatized and shocked over the incident, there were no prior reports from the student or her mother, written or verbal, that had been made to either the year head or the Ellerslie Principal Major Errol Brathwaite in relation to the teacher.
The BSTU spokeswoman said the year head had also reported to her that he has had to speak to the mother on a number of occasions about the child’s behaviour.
“The mother has herself stated to the public that she has to visit the school on a few occasions because of her daughter’s behaviour, but she is not a problem child.
However, “I don’t expect that she referring to collecting prizes at Speech Day,” Redman told the gathering at Solidarity House, while adding that “the mother admits that the daughter has attended, is attending, the Juvenile Liaison Scheme for having gotten into a fight on the bus.
“The Juvenile Liaison Scheme is like a step before the Girl’s Industrial School. Children guilty of continued and serious infractions are sent there,” the spokeswoman for teachers said.
She also said based on reports from the third form teacher, the girl was frequently late for school and frequently absent for both morning and afternoon registration, as was the case on April 13.
Redman also reported that the teacher was just back from long leave and that the attack occurred on her second day back at school this term. However, prior that “the teacher [had] interacted with the student in the first term of the school year during which she never had any altercation with the student.
The BSTU head also indicated that the teacher has a 16 year history in the service and was voted “Teacher Of The Year” in her group in 2013. She also said she had never been involved with any such or similar disciplinary matter with any other student during that tenure.
On the other hand, she suggested that the student has had a coloured history, as she questioned: “What would proper objective investigations by Ms Ross, as to the number of other students that have been bullied or attacked by this student, reveal?”
In explaining the union’s reluctance, up until now, to speak publicly on the incident, she said not only does it remain under police investigation, but also it could become a legal matter.
She also said the union had been seeking to ensure that there was no smearing of the character of the child involved.
However, Redman said based on all that has been told to them of the violent incident, the third former is guilty of two of the three infractions, covered by the Education Act.
Therefore, the union, in demanding the student’s expulsion, was merely following the Ministry of Education’s own code of disciplines for such violations.