Tue | Aug 21, 2018

Parent-teacher standoff - Mother at odds with school administrators over social media post; - Given ultimatum to apologise or withdraw daughter and face legal action

Published:Sunday | November 26, 2017 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris
St Jago Cathedral Preparatory School
Chairman of the board for the St Jago Cathedral Preparatory School, Canon Collin Reid
Principal of the St Jago Cathedral Preparatory School, Andrea Baugh

Concerned that the abuse of her 10-year-old daughter by her classmate was not being taken seriously by school administrators, one mother was further infuriated last week after she was asked to withdraw her daughter from the institution and to expect legal action because she had documented her version of the incident on social media.

In a letter dated November 20 and addressed to the mother, chairman of the board for the St Jago Cathedral Preparatory School, Canon Collin Reid, asked her to publicly apologise to the school family and retract "the libellous slander" she has unleashed on the institution via social media.

"Failure to do so within five days of receipt of this letter, we see no other option than to ask you to remove your child from our institution and to pursue legal action against you," a section of the letter reads. The deadline would have been last night.

The mother told The Sunday Gleaner she now has no other option but to homeschool her daughter, who is expected to sit the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) next March, as she does not intend to apologise for sharing her account of an incident that occurred on the school's compound on October 25.


Alleged violent attack


According to the mother, who has asked to remain anonymous, her daughter was violently attacked by her classmate after she told him to stop throwing a broom and his shoes across the classroom. She said her daughter then went up to the boy and shook his shoulders and asked him to stop. He then put his foot in front of her and tripped her and she tried to trip him back.

"The boy then started to hit and kick her. She tried to run but only found refuge in a corner where she curled up on the floor, and the boy continued to kick her while she used a book to block her face," the mother recounted.

"Some children came and held back the boy, which allowed her to escape and run into the schoolyard with the boy chasing her, pushing and kicking her," the mother alleged.

"To this point the distress she was under had not drawn the attention of any adult or teacher on the compound. Crying, she ran to [the] bathroom area to wash her face and regroup, upon which the boy again followed her and tried to choke her."

The mother has since made several trips to the school where she has met with the principal, chairman of the board and the boy's father, but she believes the matter is not being taken seriously and her daughter has been accused of fabricating the story, although other children have confirmed what she told her.

"I was basically told I am wasting everybody's time with this, this is a part of life and children will be children," said the mother, who told The Sunday Gleaner that other parents called her that day because their children had reported what had happened.

"I have not been able to sleep since the incident. My daughter, though she does not have any physical bruises, seems traumatised. After the incident she lay in bed wrapped in a blanket. God forbid, but if this was a sexual assault, is it the same way it would have been treated? If I was standing with a husband or a father for my child I might have been treated differently," she said.

Both the mother and the school's chairman told The Sunday Gleaner that the girl is one of the school's top students and is very active in the life of the school.

Reid said the allegations levelled by the mother on social media have been embellished and are far from factual.

"All that is happening comes as a shock, because her description of the school bears no resemblance to what happens here," Reid told The Sunday Gleaner during to a visit to the school last Tuesday.

In addition to a letter documenting the October 25 incident, a post was made on various social-media sites accusing the school of not taking discipline and student safety seriously following several violent incidents on its compound in recent times.

"We have tried to resolve the matter three times. The first time with a senior teacher, who is the class teacher, along with two (other) teachers. The second time, by the principal with all these teachers and students from grade six, and the third time I called a meeting with the board along with (the parent) and the father of the boy in question," he said.

He claimed that the mother is upset because he had refused to fire the principal and expel the boy, as she had suggested.

"That was not on the table for discussion and so she is not happy. She has told me that she is not going to stop until she brings down the school, and we are taking every step to ensure that we put a stop to her. If it reaches the point where we have to take legal action, it is going to be done; as a matter of fact we have started the process," he said.


Staff receiving threats


Principal of the school, Andrea Baugh, said the institution has been forced to consider legal action because she and members of her staff have been receiving threats since the social-media posts were started.

"The feedback that we have been getting from social media is of people threatening our lives and what should be happening to the child. I should be shot, the child should be beaten within an inch of his life, a bomb should be dropped on the school and all of that," said the principal, who noted that one member of staff did not turn up at work that day because she was threatened on social media after coming to the defence of the school.

The principal said she had asked the children to apologise to each other on more than one occasion because, based on her investigation, she feels they were both culpable.

"It was reported that boys were playing around in the room. One in particular had a broom, he was chasing another one, they were playing. The child said she told them to stop, but the boy said he was told to stop when he was sitting down having his lunch and she wiped her hand on him. It was also reported that she had a habit of doing that; she would wipe her nose and wipe it on the other children. He chased her and apparently they went around to the bathroom area and she said that he tried to choke her. Now he never touched her," the principal said.

Both mother and principal were contacted by an official from the Ministry of Education after the mother brought it to their attention. The school's principal has also filed a police report.

The mother said she was fully prepared to go before a judge to plead her case, should the school carry out its threat to pursue legal action.

"I am one woman against the world, it appears, if there is no governing body that can do an investigation into the matter. The principal and chairman are above reproach. The PTA president is just a title. I've been shunned by parents because they are too nice for anything like this. All I'm hearing all around is that I was wrong to have pushed this; I should have just left the matter. That's the problem with this country, we have no backbone," she lamented.