That’s how Attorney-at-law Arthur Holder this morning described the section of the Education Act which imposes penalties on parents found guilty of not sending their children to school.
Appearing in the case of Janelle Jordan of Haynesville, St. James, Holder, whose 14-year-old son Ministry of Education officials said had missed the entire first and second term of school between 2010 and 2011, Holder charged that the imposition of the $50 fine within the Act [Section 61, Cap 41] was hardly enough.
“The Act is so antiquated that the imposition of a fine… if I was a parent who was careless or negligent and asked to pay $50, I do not see it as a sanction,” claimed the attorney, who had appeared on another matter involving the family.
He added that he did not see the fine as a sanction that would speak to the welfare of the child.
“What will that sanction do?” he queried in the District E Magistrates Court at Holetown, St. James before Magistrate Barbara Cooke-Alleyne.
Jordan was one of 18 parents the Ministry of Education had logged charges against for failure to send their children to school regularly.
According to the Education Act: “Where a child of compulsory school age,
(a) being a registered pupil at a school, fails to attend regularly at
the school; or
(b) not being a registered pupil at a school, does not, in a manner satisfactory to the Minister, receive full-time education suit- able to his age and ability,
the parent of the child is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $50.”
Magistrate Cooke-Alleyne pointed out that the issue was that the law did not have “teeth” to protect children in the way it should, but that it let parents know what their responsibilities were in relation to the Act and their children’s education.
Holder contended though that all the circumstances surrounding why a child would be absent for a lengthy period needed to be examined and he was not certain if that had been done. He asked the Magistrate for time to review the case, as well as relevant documentation from the Ministry of Education’s officers pertaining to the Jordan case.
“If there is a report then I would need to know if any warnings were given to the parent. I wish to be presented with the report so I can get some kind of background on why the child was absent,” he told the Magistrate.
Senior school attendance officer John Hollingsworth, who appeared on behalf of the Ministry stated that the child in question had been absent for an entire term one and two – 66 of 66 days in term one and 54 of 54 days in term two.
He said officers assigned to the case had realised the child’s absence from school and interviewed the mother, Jordan, on the challenges regarding sending the child to school.
To Holder’s questions to the Magistrate as to whether any measures were put in place for the family, Hollingsworth responded that Jordan had been assigned to participate in a seminar with other parents .
Hollingsworth said subsequently, after the absences continued, he personally visited the Jordans’ home on three occasions but received no satisfactory response and was therefore moved to bring charges against the mother. He said too that there were complaints from the neighbours that the child had been seen loitering in the district when he should have been in school and furthermore, that he had been riding a motorcycle through the district and creating disturbance.
He offered to present what documentation the Ministry had on the matter for Holder, along with affidavits of visits to the Jordan home.
The child, was remanded to Government Industrial Schools until September 5, when he is expected to reappear in court. (LB)