Sunday 20 May, 2018

Suspended students in school brawl could be expelled

That’s according to Education Minister Anthony Garcia who along with Minister in the Education Ministry Dr Lovell Francis, today visited the school as the situation demanded their “immediate intervention”.

The Ministers met with the students involved in the incident along with their parents, as well as school’s principal and members of staff, including the Vice Principal, the Guidance Officers and the School Safety Officers.

Following that meeting, Garcia said it was determined that the schoolgirl who was beaten unconscious shared equal blame in the matter.

“All four students are culpable. There is no one student who can escape blame. Even the student who was beaten, also has to accept some responsibility.”

The students have since been suspended, but Minister Garcia says further discussions are due to take place at the Executive level of the Ministry to determine whether any further action is to be taken. He has already instructed the school’s principal to apply for an extension to the suspension as he believes that the infraction warrants a longer suspension.

“We will be dealing with this matter in discussions at the Executive level of the Ministry of Education very shortly and we are going to decide what to do. Because we are not going to tolerate this type of behaviour in our school system.

Our schools must be places where our students can learn and teachers can teach in relative safety, and where there are infractions to the rules of the school, it is our responsibility to ensure that we take corrective action.

And in this case, corrective action might mean a prolonged period of absence from school, and perhaps it might even mean expulsion of some of those students.”

Questioned as to why the beaten student was also suspended, as she is a minor, Garcia did not wish to say anything more than the girl was also culpable in the incident. 

It was also determined that there was a breakdown in the school’s disciplinary plan and disciplinary process, which would have led to the incident in question.

Garcia explained what happens to students who are suspended or expelled for such infractions.

“We have instituted a learning enhancement centre system. In fact in this Education Division…it is one of the first Divisions where we had the learning enhancement system firmly established.

Those students whether they are expelled, whether they are suspended for longer periods, they will be enrolled at these learning enhancement centres in an effort to have their behaviour changed.”

Also at the meeting was head of the National Parent Teachers' Association (NPTA) Zena Ramatali who voiced her support of the action being taken by the Ministry.

“We are standing fully behind the Ministry of Education, we recognise it’s a clear issue of the breakdown of discipline at the school here and whatever programmes are going to be put in place, we recommend that the Ministry of Education together with the School Management team, and look at creating a culture of peace within our schools, and not only here but across the country.” 

Meanwhile, MP for Mayaro Rushton Paray pledged to work with the school's principal, along with the PTAs of all the schools in the area, hold conversations with children and get parents a little more involved with the school system to prevent the recurrence of such behaviour. He said these efforts have to be made to repair the school's image. 

Minister Francis assured that corrective measures which have been implemented at “problem schools” like the Chaguanas North Secondary School and have had some impact will be introduced at the Mayaro School.  

“We will use similar mechanisms here and …we will definitely ensure that those kinds of behaviours are curtailed in the near future."