Wed | Dec 13, 2017

Mother says schools failed her son ... Blames series of suspensions and expulsion for child's behavioural problems

Published:Sunday | November 5, 2017 | 12:00 AM
A policeman searches a group of schoolboys who were seen loitering in downtown Kingston.
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A mother is pleading for help with her 18-year-old son who seems headed down the wrong road after a series of questionable separation from school ended with him not graduating and getting a criminal record.

Stacy-Ann Blake* acknowledges that her son has had behavioural problems and fell victim to peer pressure, but believes the amount of time he spent unsupervised after being suspended from school has done him far more harm than good.

Blake's theory is supported by data from a 2011 study by the Office of the Children's Advocate, which found that 45.5 per cent of children who got in conflict with the law had been either suspended or expelled from school.

"The problem with the school was that he was being rebellious so he was suspended from (a Corporate Area primary and junior high school) and they did not allow him to graduate," said Blake.

He passed the Grade Nine Achievement Test and he was placed at a recently upgraded secondary school, also in the Corporate Area.

"There was a fight there the first week of school and he was outside, but was not involved in the fight, but his friends were, and he was suspended for three days," said Blake, as she argued that this was in breach of the Ministry of Education's rules.

Section 85 of the Education Regulations (1980) states that "the board of management of every public educational institution shall, for the purpose of facilitating enquiries into allegation of breaches of discipline by or against members of staff or students appoint a committee to which the board shall refer any such allegations".

Blake said this was never done in her son's case. "He came home, did the three days and when he went back to school I got a call from the dean (of discipline) saying that receipts were taken from the garbage bin to purchase lunch and he was involved. She gave him a week suspension."

This represented another breach of the Education Regulations, as only principals are permitted to suspend students.

"Before they expelled him I said to her (dean of discipline) ... 'Ms, instead of sending him home and he is at home doing nothing, and when I am not there he is going to go out on the street and get mixed up, you don't have a programme you can put him in?'," added Blake.

She said she was referred to the Dispute Resolution Centre, but her son would skip the sessions and instead jump his school's wall to gain access to the premises, until one day he was accosted by a security guard and a fight ensued, which resulted in his expulsion.

"I kept going to the police station, but they said that they could not pick him up or anything, because he did not commit himself. So I asked the police 'what am I supposed to do, am I to sit down and wait until he commits a crime or something happens before you can help mi?'," Blake recounted.

 

In the wrong crowd

 

Blake said she contacted the Child Development Agency but no help was provided, and with her son suspended and at home he got mixed up in the wrong crowd.

He was eventually arrested after he was found among a group of boys who had grabbed a woman's phone.

"When we went to court he was booked as an uncontrollable child and sent to Metcalfe (Street Juvenile Remand Centre)," said Blake.

"I thought they were just putting him through the system for him to improve his behaviour, so I didn't bother to get a lawyer as I wanted him to change, but I did not know they would have sent him away for a whole year."

She said he was transferred to Hill Top Juvenile Correctional Centre, where he was beaten to near death by other boys and had to be moved to Rio Cobre Juvenile Correctional Centre.

He has since been released but he is now at home and is in danger of getting in further conflict with the law.

"No school wants to take him in, so he is just home not doing anything," Blake said.

"The other day a guy stole his sister's phone at school and he went to vindicate, which was wrong, and beat up the guy, who I hear is a policeman's son.

"My fear is I don't want him to just be here sitting down and get caught up. As a mother, I am not going to feel good to know my son get caught up in a gang or end up a do things or a go jail, jail. I would like to get him into a programme or something," lamented a worried Blake.

 

*Name changed upon request

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com