The teacher who is being accused of abusing an eight-year-old boy at the Ellerton Primary School’s Special Education Unit has been suspended
Without going into details about the case, Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw said she was extremely concerned about any form of violence in schools. She told Barbados TODAY that the teacher accused of beating the child who has Down’s Syndrome, with a stick, has been removed from the classroom while the matter was being thoroughly investigated by police and education authorities.
“The matter would have been reported to the Ministry of Education, and the officials would have met with both the principal [Andrew Haynes] and the teacher in question. Those interviews have been conducted. Investigations are ongoing, but in the interest of all parties, a determination was made to place the teacher on suspension, in order to allow the rest of the investigations to be carried out.
“I want to make the point that the process has to be followed, and therefore when the ministry says it is investigating, it is really following the procedure to make sure that any person, against whom an allegation is made, that we have to ensure that due process is followed. The law also allows us to be able to place that person on suspension, and to take certain actions in the interest of all parties. We have acted quickly upon being notified of the situation.
“I understand that the matter has been taken by the parent to the police. Those investigations, I believe will be continuing. They [police], have a responsibility to do their part. But we are doing from our end what is necessary once a matter is reported to us,” Bradshaw said.
In Monday’s E-paper, Barbados TODAY highlighted the plight of parent Charmane Ifill, who was calling for the teacher who allegedly beat her son with a stick, bruising him, to be removed from the institution. Ifill said the teacher claimed to have lashed the child because “he don’t listen”.
Ifill also asked that her son be transferred to another institution because he was traumatized about returning to the unit following last Thursday’s incident.
According to Bradshaw, the parent was scheduled to meet with the psychologist attached to the ministry, to ensure that all of her concerns were addressed, and that decisions would be made according to the child’s needs.
“Obviously, the decision to place the child was based on the child’s peculiar circumstances and I believe that we are making the attempts to investigate where the child can be placed. My understanding is that most children, even if it is a rape victim, or victim of sexual abuse, people feel uncomfortable going back to the scene of the crime, or the scene of an alleged incident.
“Therefore, we have to be sensitive as a ministry to those concerns as well. You know there is a thing in law that you take the victim as you find them. In this particular case this child obviously, because he is Down’s Syndrome, will have some concerns going back to a location where any alleged abuse has taken place. Given that the child may not be able to communicate as other children may, we have to obviously take that into account and be able to address those concerns as quickly as possible,” Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw gave the assurance that her ministry has been actively attempting to introduce programmes into the schools, to address issues of violence, including the launch of an anti violence campaign, and placing emphasis on positive behavioural management programmes where teachers are encouraged to explore alternative methods of discipline, as opposed to seeking to use corporal punishment as the first or only method of discipline.
Noting that there are alternate ways of disciplining and otherwise dealing with children who may be behaving badly, Minister Bradshaw said: “What is also of note is that our laws still allow for the head teacher to be able to use corporal punishment, or to be able to delegate that authority to the deputy, or to the senior teachers. In this case, as you would appreciate, the principal did not administer the punishment,” she said.
She also encouraged other parents, who may have had similar experiences reported to them, to follow the correct procedures in reporting the matter, beginning with the principals.
“They also need to, if it is of a serious nature, report it to the police and also to ensure that they seek a medical report,” she said.
“I want people to report any issues of violence towards children in our schools. Whether that is student-on-student violence, or whether it is teacher-on-student violence, or even student-on-teacher violence as well. When we did the anti-violence campaign we addressed all three. We talked about peace begins with me, talk it out and violence solves nothing. We recognized it was not a one-way issue.
“It is not just the issues between teachers and students, but there are other issues in the system that we are dealing with as well. And the approach is a zero tolerance to violence generally, but in particular to violence where it involves children who are to be protected in the environment within the school.
“It is an overall approach that says violence solves nothing, let us find alternative ways to deal with conflict, to deal with indiscipline and to improve our communication. That is really the focus. This isn’t about blaming a teacher, this is about trying to get people to recognize that there are different ways to deal with the situation,” Bradshaw added.
The minister revealed that the ministry would soon beefing up its training for teachers on how to appropriately and effectively deal with children who have special needs. She said efforts are also on the way to finalize a special needs policy for Barbados.