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Seaga urges Public Defender to investigate removal of Head Girl at St Hilda's

Published:Friday | October 9, 2015 | 5:01 PMGary Spaulding
Edward Seaga

FORMER PRIME Minister Edward Seaga has called on the Office of the Public Defender to intervene in the imbroglio surrounding the removal of the head girl of St Hilda's Diocesan High School, even as the Ministry of Education urged the institution to revise its decision.

In raising the issue of a possible breach of the student's constitutional rights, Seaga suggested that the removal must be looked at in terms of what the Charter of Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of the Jamaican Constitution says.

The education ministry said on Thursday, its regional director met with the principal of St Hilda's High about the decision to rescind the initial appointment of the head girl, and based on the advice of the regional director, the school board was asked to review the decision.

Robert Nesta Morgan, a close aide to the opposition leader, has expressed disappointment at what he described as the hands-off approach of Education Minister Ronald Thwaites.

"I note the minister's statement that the board would resolve the matter, but this is not enough," he said.

Morgan argued that there is a role for the minister and the ministry to provide leadership and protect students and parents.

TROUBLED By SCHOOL'S ACTIONS

Morgan said he was deeply troubled by the actions of the school in withdrawing the appointment of its head girl because of the possibility that she might be a Jehovah's Witness.

"Based on all we have heard from the parent of the child and the school, this seems to have been a bad decision that should be reversed," he said. "We have to ensure that natural justice and fairness are operating within our society, especially in our schools," he insisted.

Seaga noted that the Constitution guarantees the right to freedom from discrimination on the grounds of race, place of origin, social class, colour, religion, or political opinions.

He noted, however, that the Constitution also states that this shall have effect for the purpose of affording protection to the rights and freedoms of persons as set out in those provisions, to the extent that those rights and freedoms do not prejudice the rights and freedoms of others.

Seaga said this sets out a most interesting situation as to whether the head girl of the school was removed from her position because she had affected the rights and freedoms of others in the school through her religion.

He also suggested that it must be determined whether it is only presumed that, while being head girl, she could potentially take any step to affect the rights and freedoms of others by discrimination.

"It would be unconstitutional to remove the head girl from her position only on a presumption of discrimination," said Seaga. "I think this matter should be dealt with by the public defender immediately."

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com