KINGSTON – Head of Calabar High’s Physics Department Sanjaye Shaw says he is still upbeat, despite the school’s rejection yesterday of his version of events surrounding an alleged assault involving two of the school’s top athletes last December.
Shaw told the Jamaica Observer that he is not parting ways with the institution unless he’s fired, even though the school’s reaction may have undermined his authority in the classroom.
“What have I done? If I leave now some people would say it’s because I was leaving Calabar why I did this. People are saying that it’s because of Champs — all different kinds of stupidness. I have been fighting for this . . . Champs has nothing to do with this,” Shaw said.
Yesterday Acting Principal Calvin B Rowe, in response to a press conference called by Shaw last Friday, in which he sought to detail the incident between himself and students of the school, listed inconsistencies with Shaw’s version of events.
Shaw had made some damning allegations against the school, accusing it of attempting to cover up the incident in which he was allegedly assaulted by track and field stalwarts Christopher Taylor and Dejour Russell when he sought to borrow mattresses from the track team for a physics camp he was hosting.
While sharing that he formally filed a police report on Friday, Shaw told journalists at a press conference that he had delayed pressing charges against the athletes as he awaited a suitable response from the school in punishing Taylor in particular.
He gave a detailed account of how the alleged incident transpired on December 15 last year. He said that Russell and Taylor, along with other members of the track team, came to a physics camp he was conducting and assaulted him, stomping on his phone in the process.
But yesterday Rowe said the school could not validate independently and with sufficient conviction the teacher’s claims.
“It became clear to us as the investigations proceeded that there were conflicting accounts on key aspects, for example, the two students involved strongly denied assaulting Mr Shaw and testified instead to the contrary. While one student admitted to shoving the teacher’s phone from the face of his teammate he was adamant that he did not step on the instrument,” Rowe said.
“Having taken all things into consideration, and noting the conflicting reports and the lack of evidence of any assault on video footage, we decided not to escalate the matter to the board but to deal with it at the level of the school’s senior leadership team.”
Rowe said the school delivered a strong reprimand to the two students for disobeying a direct order from the teacher, and later they were suspended for five days with the understanding that they were required to work on their school-based assessment, were allowed to train, and would compete in their final development meet.
“It ought to be noted that both punitive measures were aimed at addressing the matter of disobedience to a teacher’s directive and not for assault, which we could not validate independently and with sufficient conviction,” Rowe said.
“Again we assumed that the matter was finally satisfactorily behind us and were shocked to learn on Thursday, March 21, of a pending press conference being organised for Mr Shaw to air his grouse.”
Shaw has alleged that, since the incident, he has feared for his life, having received death threats via words of songs on the school compound, and even had unknown individuals showing up at his house.
“He (Rowe) said some things in the release yesterday that I am not quite satisfied with, but which can be justified. I am not satisfied with some of the things they said, but I do have recordings of several meetings that I am going to [air] that will give some clarity,” the 33-year-old Shaw said yesterday.
Insisting that the institution could have dealt with the matter more urgently, Shaw made it clear that his intention was never to put the school into a state of disrepute.
“I never at one instant in time second guessed myself about standing up for my rights, but what I did was give the school all the opportunity in the world to just sort it out. The same day the incident occurred the police came and they said if I wanted to make a report for them to launch an arrest I could do it the same night and I told them that I was not going to do that, I was going to give the school an opportunity to sort it out, because I don’t want to put the school into disrepute,” Shaw explained.
Shaw said that when he began teaching at the Red Hills Road institution, approximately four years ago, his ultimate goal was to create an environment that was conducive to learning and to improve the school’s physics grades.
“When I went to Calabar, physics was not in a place where I thought it should be for the institution that it is,” he disclosed, adding that he knew he had to implement a programme that would help the students to gain more knowledge, experience, and to get a better understanding of the subject.
According to him, when he started the physics camp, he, along with the students, funded it from their pockets, and he admitted that he never minded contributing because he believed in the students and he knew the method would help them to increase their proficiency.
Shaw, who is also one of the two teachers who teaches robotics, said data will show that the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination pass rates for the subject have improved.
He noted that his passion for teaching started when he would assist children in and around his community with their homework while he attended Kingston Technical High School and the University of Technology, Jamaica.
Shaw, who grew up in a tough inner-city community off Red Hills Road, said it was his way of giving back given the fact that he was raised by a woman who took him in as her own after his biological mother left him on the road with a patty bag containing a nappy and a pack of powdered milk when he was three months old because of his skin condition.
The teacher, who grew up with 11 siblings, said his adopted mother never made him feel any less of a person than his brothers and sisters. Notwithstanding the financial challenges his mother faced raising them, Shaw said they had to go to school, rain or shine. He said even when lunch money was not forthcoming, the bus fare was sure, because education was her priority.
“She made me have confidence in myself because she always emphasised that growing up in society people will view you for what they see before trying to get to know you, and it’s for you to display yourself in a manner that you are as equal as any, and better than any,” he said, adding that she always re-emphasised values, morals and education.
Shaw shared that he harbours no regrets about what he has been doing for Calabar and will continue to do his best.
“I am the teacher who takes students to my home, students who I know I can help. Every child who comes to this house makes it to university. Every child who comes to this house from Calabar High School makes it to university,” he stressed. (Jamaica Observer)