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Climate of fear at school

Sophia Ifill giving testimony.

They may not have gone on strike with their more experienced and appointed colleagues, but some temporary and part-time teachers of Alexandra School also have issues with Principal Jeff Broomes.

Senior teacher Sophia Ifill told the Commission of Enquiry into the school this was because a number of these individuals feared being victimised by Broomes.

Additionally, noting that she now feared for her safety, the Physical Education teacher said she had abandoned her involvement in extra curricular activities after school, including volleyball, netball, cricket, and athletics.

She was testifying at the commission today, as the tribunal got deeper into its evidence from members of the school’s teaching staff. Ifill is one of those who took industrial action in January this year.

Ifill claimed there was a climate of fear among temporary and part time teachers who feared speaking out because they did not have security of tenure.

“I think that’s why they are silent or they are not willing to even speak about matters that are affecting them, because some of them have things going on as well, but they are not willing to speak out for fear of (security of) tenure,” she testified.

Ifill said problems at the school, and the difficulty she had relating to Broomes, was such that she did not feel comfortable.

“Because of my personal fear for my safety and things of that nature I have given up the activities I would normally be responsible for. I would have been responsible for volleyball, and I would assist at cricket practices, I would also at athletics and netball when called upon. I gave up all of that for piece of mind and safety,” she stated.

“During the school day, from time to time, you would get students that would drop remarks. I encountered once where a student said that I can’t teach them anything; they are going to Mr. Broomes, which would have been Roger Broomes at that time. I had students during school time walk out of my class to go to consult with Mr. Roger Broomes.

“For me, if I was not safe during nine to three where there was security and other people around in the evenings there is less security, there are less people around, the children seem to get more obnoxious and I did not want to have an encounter on the compound with any child who figured that they could say anything to me during school time coming to say even more to me after school. That’s why I say I did not feel safe on the compound after hours.”

The teacher also said teachers had lost respect in the eyes of some students, who now acted as if all roads led to Broomes.

“When you attempt to discipline children they would often … say things like ‘You are not the principal!’ or ‘Yea carry me to sir!’, and things like that because they would rather go to the principal than for you the teacher to speak to them,” she said.

“In the past … you did not want to be taken or even reported to the office. People that would willingly go or be reported to the principal obviously feel comfortable, or maybe they feel they will be given a hearing or things of that nature. (SC)

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