Tue | Oct 16, 2018

Walk out or get kicked out! - Principals push parents to withdraw problem children from their schools

Published:Sunday | November 12, 2017 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris
A policeman searches a group of schoolboys who were seen loitering in downtown Kingston.

Administrators at several schools across the island have introduced another disciplinary measure not sanctioned by the Ministry of Education, but which they say gets problem students out of their institutions without giving the child a tarnished record.

Under this scheme, school administrators avoid going through the official process of expelling the child by having parents sign a letter to say they have withdrawn their child from the institution.

Minister of State in the Ministry of Education Floyd Green, last week, admitted that he was aware of the practice, although he declared that no parent could be forced to sign the withdrawal letters.

But Peter McIsaac, who has chaired the boards of two traditional high schools, two upgraded high schools, a primary school, and an infant school, said that he is aware of cases where parents were asked to withdraw a child from a school for their own good.




"Occasionally, you call in the parents and you would say to the parents, 'it would be a good idea for you to withdraw your child from the school'.

"There is no coercion. I will tell parents, 'you don't have to sign that, but if you don't sign it, what is going to happen is that I am going to bring you before the board, your child will be expelled and then your child would be ineligible for other schools. If you withdraw the child, we can recommend your child for another school'," said McIsaac, who is a member of the board of an upgraded high school.

"We have to consider the other students, so the action of asking a parent to withdraw a child isn't necessarily a coercive thing, it can actually be a compassionate thing when we say we can't manage your child, what your child needs, we can't give you, so we are suggesting that you put your child in another school," added McIsaac.

He said that school administrators would often reach out to other principals to find a placement for these children, but this means that they would also have to be willing to accept children from that institution as well.

"What you are basically doing is shuffling the deck," he argued.

"Maybe the change of school is enough. Maybe you just take that child out of the situation and they realise that this is their last chance and they are not going to get involved with the wrong people, but you don't see that often," said McIsaac.

In the meantime, principal of Old Harbour High, Linton Weir, said that he has seen where this exchange of students has worked and he is not opposed to asking a parent to withdraw a student from his school so that the child can be placed at another.

"I know as principal, I participate in the transfer of students. Yes, principals have called and I say yes, send them to me, and I would have called and the same would be done," he admitted, while citing cases, where these students behaviour improved after the exchange.

According to Weir, it is not generally the desire of principals to expel or suspend students despite the general perception by members of the public and even officials of the education ministry.

He argued that expulsions can be avoided, in some cases, through better partnership with parents.

With some schools, particularly traditional high schools, unwilling to accept children who have been expelled, principal of Edith Dalton James High, Orlando Worges, does believe asking parents to withdraw their children should be seen in a negative light.

"Parents who get the option of withdrawing their child from school, it is most times an initiative of the school to help the child, based on my experience," Worges told The Sunday Gleaner.

"One of the difficulties that a child or a parent will have when a child is expelled from a school is that the track record of the child doesn't stay at that school, and getting that child into another school is close to impossible," argued Worges.