Springer row still not settled

Minister of Education Ronald Jones remained tightlipped today on the status of the 14-year-old Springer Memorial School student who continues to be out of the classroom.

However, Jones hinted that a resolution was near.

“Let the issue simmer down. There has been too much press coverage of the issue. In due course the student will be assigned to a school,” he told Barbados TODAY when asked for an update on the impasse.

Jones met the child’s mother Elecia Weekes and her attorney Steve Straughn at the Ministry of Education two-weeks ago, but there has been no word since.

The two sides failed to settle the row, but Straughn said after the meeting that both sides would work in the child’s best interest.

The student was suspended about ten weeks ago after refusing to pick up a wrapper as instructed by a teacher. At the end of her suspension she was barred from attending classes because of her continued refusal to pick up litter, Weekes said.

The mother has blocked two attempts to transfer the pupil because she was unhappy with the recommended schools.

Meantime, Principal Pauline Benjamin has received the support of fellow educators for her stance on the row.

Referring to it as a “perfect example of good leadership”, lecturer at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus Dr Ian Marshall lauded Benjamin for standing firm throughout the highly publicized issue.

“My central issue is one of leadership. I am pleased that the principal stood her ground and she supported her teachers; and that to my mind speaks to the whole issue of effective principal leadership and doing what you have to do without fear of what others may say,” Dr Marshall pointed out during a panel discussion entitled, Unwrapping the Wrapper: The Bigger Picture of Issues Affecting Education hosted by the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) this evening at the BUT’s Welches headquarters.

“For me the bigger issue there was the fact that the principal stood her ground and supported her teachers, because to my mind that is critical in our schools [and] showed effective principal leadership.”

President of the Association of Principals of Public Primary Schools Ivan Clarke adopted a similar position, saying it was important for principals to show authority at their respective schools.

“I don’t think that in a small country like this we can afford to not own the little school that we are at, [because] it’s your school and you own it,” said Clarke, the principal of Hilda Skeene Primary.

“Giving ownership to it ensures that it is very clean, that its surroundings is tidy and I think that just asking someone to maintain that plant is nothing big . . .  I think that it was blown out of proportion and I’m glad that the principal stood her ground.”

When asked if he felt the punishment administered had been appropriate, Dr Marshall, a lecturer on educational leadership, argued that the resulting punishment was not of foremost importance.

“The issue is not to my mind the appropriateness of the punishment. The issue is that if you are given an instruction by a person who has charge over you, whether you agree or disagree, your responsibility as a student is to be obedient.

“So even if you felt the punishment was too draconian or whatever the case may be, the fundamental point is that you cannot disrespect authority,” argued Dr Marshall, who also pointed out that it was against the law for a principal to suspend a student for more than ten days.

“Who is the person that kept the child out of school for two months? According to the Education Act the school can only give you ten days and if it is a secondary school the Board of Management will review the case and give you an additional ten days, and after that the parent can go to the Minister and appeal that and that position can be revoked.

“No school has the authority to keep a child out of school for two months. So any withdrawing of the child was on the advice of the parent and she should be charged with negligence because, according to the Act, as long as you are under 16 you should be at school unless you have permission to be absent,” Dr Marshall argued.

14 Responses to Springer row still not settled

  1. Sue Donym February 27, 2016 at 7:04 am

    This mentality to hunt in packs is shamefully well ingrained in fraternities in Barbados!
    Stand by your teachers – no matter what? Don’t be concerned about the punishment sounds a lot like anything is justifiable as long as the teachers are attempting to demonstrate their authority.

    Yes, this banding together is evident elsewhere. Have you ever tried to get a doctor to give evidence that would expose another doctor’s liability? Suddenly nothing is certain and no matter how many instances of neglect or obvious error occurred, the emphasis is on protecting the ‘guilty’.

    Some lawyers in B’dos are infamous for transgressions, yet the tendency of his peers to give every benefit to the accused attorney is as strong as the determination to give every doubt to his accuser.

    Then, regrettably, there are the well known secrets associated with rogue cops – those very publicly known dirty deeds that cause otherwise ‘respectable’ policemen to close ranks to protect the honour of the profession.

    In each of these cases there is the long held belief that these are some of our most upstanding citizens, deserving of our respect. I say these are the very people that should be penalised harshly when they blatantly offend. Everyone is expected to make mistakes, but abuses of authority should not be tolerated and good citizens encourage discontent and societal decay when they refuse to admonish them appropriately.

    It is not enough to say a person or institution is otherwise respectable. The average citizen deserves protection from unfair treatment and should not need a title to expect ‘respect’.

    • Coralita February 27, 2016 at 11:26 am

      Well said!!! I have been saying the same thing.

      I have no respect for this brand of adults. People like these could never be role models in my world.

      Adults who recognise when they are wrong and apologise or change their behaviour are the adults I have respect for. A teacher who called a child out of the classroom just to pick up a wrapper on the outside, a child who she picks on is being patted on the back.

      The principal stood her ground and lost a valuable teachable moment. The principal and her teacher were more consumed with punishing rather than nurturing. SAD, SAD, SAD. CRAPPY LEADERSHIP AND AUTHORITY.

      • Sue Donym February 27, 2016 at 1:42 pm

        Thank you, @Coralita. You’ve hit the mark, yourself. It seems it has escaped many that the garbage situation existed because others had not acted appropriately.

    • The $2 Philosopher February 29, 2016 at 2:08 am

      Well said Sue. It is highly troubling to me that the idea that you should obey authority no matter what continues to go unchallenged.

      The inheritance of colonialism still lingers.

      Wicked name by the way!

  2. Shelly Ross February 27, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    As a parent I encourage parents to value education and I have always insisted on respect for school and teachers but I cannot accept the collective ignorance from a group that supposed to lead our young people.

    We have a situation that exhibits poor examples by a year head and excessive discipline and child abuse by a principal and the attitude of the principal’s body is to defend their own regardless of what they do.

    One cannot overlook the environment in which this incident took place and when explained to many educators who do not subscribe to any fraternity, they are embarrassed.

    One educator with a Phd who daily deals with children said to me, “I pick up litter and so many things, why could the year head not pick it up and seize the moment to speak to the girls about littering”, she thought it was ridiculous.

    When one takes a close examination of our schools, we cannot help but see that there is a leadership crisis.

    Most schools fail to connect with the students, there are visibly poor standards at most of the schools, poor academic results and low self esteem among students.

    We have issues in schools where the children are having little guidance and there is a lack of pastoral care. There is a problem of some teachers not turning up for classes, some hardly teaching and students are forced to get lessons to prepare for exams.

    In addition to that, I have heard of problems with lesbianism in a certain school and at another, a teacher that is enticing girls and at another one enticing boys.

    In the media we read about the Barbadian music teacher who was on charges in the US for instructing a young child to pull down her pants.

    Yet with all that is going on and with any and every body going into teaching, I am hearing from some obviously pompous, non-thinking persons that children should follow all iinstructions given.

    The often used term by many principals, “My school”, needs to be addressed as not one of them owns a school. They are given a job by “my taxes” to teach “my child” and without either, they do not have a ‘My School”.

    Alarmingly, in almost every incident at a school, the principal backs the offending teacher and the parent and the child have been turned into villains for basically standing up for the rights of the child against some egotistical jackasses.

    How can anyone with any level of integrity say that this mother should be before the courts for keeping her child at home, when she sent that child to school and a principal, put her out on two occasions.

    This mother accepted three sets of punishment of her daughter on before stepping in to get her child back in classes.

    The child was refused classes for a whole week and during that time she had to wait to be told that she could go to lunch. Lunch time at Springer is 11.00am. This child leaves home at 6.20am to get to school and making her wait another hour or two for lunch is punishment in itself. Prisoners are not so treated.

    She was then sent home for a week for the same incident. As we all know, the offence did not merit suspension.

    All the while, the mother was telling the child to bear it out.

    When the mother returned to school with the child after the suspension, the principal insisted that she has to pick up garbage as that was the punishment. What then was the past two weeks?
    This is the sign of abuse of power.

    The mother objected because the child was already excessively punished, but the principal insisted that she must pick up garbage.

    It was during this conversation that the year head told the mother, that if your child should drop down in this school, we have the right to step over her. While the mother was offended by the comment the principal said nothing and a heated exchange then occurred between the year head and the mother.

    This however is not the worst from that uncouth year head. She was at one time during the incident speaking to the girl and she had her finger in the child’s face when the child asked her not to do that. Her reaction was to asked the child what she was going to do about it.

    “Are you going to hit me?” she asked
    “No ma’am”, the child replied
    “Oh, cause I would give you two cuffs”, the teacher said

    Why is this happening? Can anyone subscribe to that behaviour from a teacher.

    Given the events as they occurred and the fact that the mother did not want a transfer for her child, but if that was necessary, she insisted that she had to agree to it.

    Where was she wrong?

    The mother also spoke to A Child Advocate and she reports that she felt insulted after doing so, as the Advocate was not pleased with her going to the press and told her that she did not feel like helping her.

    The events that followed saw the princiapl put the child out of school. After the first time that happened the mother sent her back to school because there was no documentation to show that she was dismissed or accepted at any other school.

    The child returned to school and the principal eventually escorted her to the gate, put her off the premises and told her that she was no longer a student there that she should take off the uniform.

    It was only then that the child did not return to school. Who stopped her from going to school?

    I accompanied the mother to the MOE that day and I was there when a document was only then presented for her signature. At that tiime, she was asking for an official, no one was available… only the clerk they sent with the document. Funny eh!

    That document was about the transfer to Ellerslie and that ocurred after the child was put out of school. The mother refused to sign it at that time as she was insisting on speak to an official.

    For anyone to say that the mother stopped her child from going to school, that person is strongly biased and his opinions on any matter should never be trusted.

    A single mum, with an orderly and spotless home where her child engages in household chores and who assist in caring for ‘Coco’, the lovely bull mastiff family dog, that they love like a child and a neat little garden, is what I found.

    The lashings that she has received is regrettable, but what is striking is that some of these comments are coming from people that should be a lot more sensitive to the child’s well being and they want to impress us that they care about our children.

    They care about supporting their own as at some time, they count on each other for votes for positions or for that push to get something they want that they cannot achieve on their own merit. Remember that a number of people in the MOE were also teachers….even the Minister.

    As I said, a pack of egotistical jackasses.

    “…This mentality to hunt in packs is shamefully well ingrained in fraternities in Barbados!….” So very true.

    Parents in Barbados, do some maths…. Let us learn the rules of the ‘hunt in packs’ mentality.

    • Sue Donym February 27, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      Shelly Ross, may I say that I admire your candour and the restraint shown by you, Ms Weekes and her daughter. I respect the fact that it has taken great strength of character to resist the urge to reply to more of the vitriol that has been directed at you.

      As a society we have apparently resigned ourselves to shrink away silently even when our rights are trampled, in the fear that we will be further or longer or more harshly victimised. Some of us therefore have developed more respect for principles than for many a principal, all the while hoping that a change for the better is still possible.

      Continue to hold your heads high. The pack will learn that not everyone will submit based on tradition.

  3. Anthony February 27, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    Is picking up a piece of paper on the floor of your church, home or school would cause people to denigrate you??
    Most countries if not all has littering laws on the books and discourage littering.
    We witness what the littering has done to our beaches and streets. If I go in a store shopping and clothes is on the ground where I am shopping, I pick up the clothes and put them on the rack. It doesn’t make me less than a man. It doesn’t affect my certification or who I am.

    The little woman should have picked up the piece of paper.
    And yes, leaders stand their troops.

    • Coralita February 27, 2016 at 10:20 pm

      The big woman should have picked up the piece of paper when she saw it outside. She had no right calling a child out from class to pick up a wrapper because she apparently does not favour the child.

      Somebody needs to tell these ineffective leaders that KARMA is a bitch and wah aint catch yah aint pass yah. You people don’t hold anyone’s future in your hands you all can’t stop God’s blessings in anyone’s life.

      There are stories of teachers ill-treating students only to fall into said students hands later on in life. Teachers you all get old and the students you ill-treat can end up being the doctor or nurse who have to tend to you. They can be the bank manager you want to do you a favour or the Insurance executive you want to speed up that claim for you.

      What you sow, you will surely reap.

  4. Anthony February 27, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    What if the student fell on the ground unconscious and everyone leave her there and said they are not paramedics???

    • Coralita February 27, 2016 at 9:49 pm

      Seems to me like you are proving that they can be considered egotistical, vengeful jackasses who should not be teaching the nations’s children.

  5. Shelly Ross February 27, 2016 at 3:18 pm

    Thank you Sue Donym

    I am a mother and I love children. I raised a child who was a role model student and who is now excelling internationally….and what I wanted for her, I want for all other children.

    We need to give support to all parents to help all children and I would fight to the end for this little girl because she did nothing to deserve this and it is truly a reflection of what is sending our young people in the wrong direction.

    This child is a brutally honest, pleasant and polite young lady and I am sad to see what people that have no clue of what went down, doing this to her.

    Bajans are afraid to stand up but I fear only God and when one of them become bigger than God, I would fear them, until then …

    • Coralita February 27, 2016 at 9:53 pm

      Shelly, a big thumbs up to you. I agree with all you are saying.

      Somebody tell Ronald Jones that the DLP aint getting my vote and how this mother and daughter has been treated has influenced my decision.


  6. Wayne February 27, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    All this time a teenager out of school as adults.stand their ground

  7. Shirf February 28, 2016 at 9:12 am

    Band wagoners


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