An explosive charge was made today about Combermere School involving a gun, illegal marijuana and a cover up far greater than President of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) Pedro Shepherd had suggested last week.
It surrounds the case of a 14-year-old student who was found at school with a gun magazine – the part of the firearm that stores the bullets – which he had first claimed to have found on his way to school before finally admitting that it had come from his home.
With the police yet to lay any charges and the principal coming out publicly in defence of the pupil, the matter appeared to have been put to rest.
However, in a dramatic revelation this afternoon, senior teacher Reverend Charles Morris told Barbados TODAY there was a lot more than just a gun magazine involved.
“We were told of an empty magazine yet in the school students were complaining that there was a gun in the school subsequent to the magazine being found and these things were not reported to the police.
“So one person was carrying out the search and there were reports of vegetable matter in the bag and somehow the . . . [person] who was conducting the search and the boy left the room in which the search was going on,” Morris said on the sidelines of a meeting this afternoon at Solidarity House for members of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU).
“Why would a student pick up an empty magazine and bring it to school?”
Morris contended that there was a violation of the guidelines set out under the Education Act for searching students, claiming that one teacher had conducted the search.
As a result, he charged, by the time the police arrived there was no trace of the alleged substance.
“Police may have been correct in not laying any charges against the student because all they were given was the magazine,” he said.
“A search was carried out and in the first place only one teacher carried out the search when the Act clearly states that there has to at least two teachers present.”
Without pointing fingers at anyone, the controversial teacher reported on a meeting of senior staff held last week during which the issue was discussed.
However, Morris said it was clear from the explanations given that something was amiss.
“I attended a management meeting last week and the explanations that I heard coming left me bewildered because there were so many gaps in the story. Then we had an explanation from the principal yesterday, who came to the staff to update us on what was going on, [and] I was even more convinced that not only were there gaps in the story but the whole process was corrupted.”
Morris said as a result of all that happened he was a frightened man, and would not report to school tomorrow.
Instead, he said, he would show up at the Ministry of Educations, seemingly expecting to be safer there.
“Right now I am scared and I have consulted with my union because I intend to turn up to the Ministry of Education for work as of tomorrow morning. I am frightened. I talk big but I am frightened for my skin. I don’t hit people and I don’t want any body to hit me, and now they talking about gun, I am definitely scared,” he stressed dramatically.
In a briefing immediately after this afternoon’s meeting, BSTU President Mary Redman did not mention the specific charges made by Morris.
However, she said she had heard enough from teachers at the school to be seriously concerned about the incident.
“Based on what has been reported to us here today there is a high level of concern in relation to the matter. Some of what I heard today was very disturbing to me and disturbing to the general membership based on the reaction and comments made. This is why the union has to now seriously investigate and understand what really is happening there for the protection of both teachers and students in that institution,” Redman stated.
It was last week that the BUT president had hinted at a cover up at Combermere when he pointed to discrepancies in the handling of that incident and that of a 15-year-old Parkinson Memorial School student who had smashed the window of a teacher’s car with a rock, and was subsequently remanded to the Government Industrial School.
While he admitted that “the difference between the two is that there was damage to a teacher’s vehicle at Parkinson while at Combermere it is something that was found on the person”, nothing Shepherd said then pointed to anything close to the allegations made by Morris.
Instead, the BUT president focused on the police treatment of the two incidents.
Meantime, police late this evening revealed for the first time that a ‘mock gun” had been found on the student.
However Public Relations Officer Acting Inspector Roland Cobbler insisted that officers at the scene had conducted a thorough investigation and they found no firearm.
“I don’t know where the teacher is getting their information from but the boy had an empty magazine and that matter has been dealt with,” Cobbler told Barbados TODAY.
“I hear persons talking about if it was another school it wouldn’t have been highlighted when we don’t normally name schools in our investigations. I know for a fact there wasn’t no real gun involved in that scenario, so the matter was investigated totally. The boy had a mock gun and a magazine and there is nothing in law that speaks to that, it speaks to having ammunition and firearms,” Cobbler explained.