Tue | Apr 7, 2020

‘My son’s afraid’ - Mother demands Homestead principal apologise for allegedly slapping sixth-grader in face

Published:Tuesday | February 25, 2020 | 12:26 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Sophia Deer
Sophia Deer

While Kerry-Ann McPherson has decided against pressing assault charges against Homestead Primary principal Sophia Deer for allegedly slapping her 13-year-old son in the face last week, she is demanding that the school administrator apologise for the reported offence.

The boy, a grade six student, returned to school yesterday for the first time since last Tuesday’s brawl.

McPherson is also seeking reimbursement for medical costs of $5,000 from Deer.

The mother, who told The Gleaner that the boy received encouragement from vendors and other well-wishers on his return yesterday, shared, too, that representatives from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information visited the school yesterday to hear her side of the story.

Though still shaken by the recent fracas, her son, who she described as a “slow learner” who repeated grade six, will sit the ability test in the Primary Exit Profile today.

McPherson says she is determined to get redress because the alleged mistreatment of her child was a red line no teacher – or principal – should cross.

“I just want the right story to be out in the air so that she won’t have a chance to lick another child. Principals must show respect to children. They are not supposed to be uncomfortable in school,” she said.

Homestead is one of several Jamaican learning institutions that have been a tinderbox of violence, with primary and high schools incubating high-voltage relations between teachers, students and parents.

While teachers, principals and deans of discipline have mainly been on the receiving end of aggression, others, like at Pembroke Hall High, have seen tutors losing their cool and even threatening to murder children.

The incidents have drawn the ire of Prime Minister Andrew Holness and the threat of tough action by his stand-in minister responsible for education, Karl Samuda.

Last week, Deer, while declining to speak in detail, told The Gleaner that she struck the child in self-defence. She referred future questions to be relayed to her lawyer.

But McPherson denied Deer’s claims, accusing the principal of displaying “careless and unprofessional behaviour”.

She was adamant that her son was wrongly accused, claiming that staff who witnessed the incident assured her that the boy was not engaged in a fight when he was struck.

“On Tuesday, about 11 a.m., I was at work and got a call from the principal, saying I must come for my son. She said there was an altercation at the school that caused her to slap him in his face two times. But she didn’t say what altercation.”

McPherson, accompanied by her mother, took time off from work to visit the school. Before reaching the reception area, she said she was met by the principal and rebuffed.

“Her reply was, ‘Oh, oonuh come fi gang mi? Mi never know mi fi stand up mek your son beat mi?’

The mother accused Deer of creating a “big scene” before heading to her office.

“I was calm because I did not want to give away my rights,” McPherson said.

While speaking to her son’s teacher, the concerned mother said the principal summoned the educator and the guidance counsellor to her office, then ordered the mother and grandmother off the compound.

“I told her I would be pressing charges since I couldn’t hear why she box my son. She said, ‘Sign out your son and leave!’”

McPherson painted her son as the victim of a failed attempt to part a fight. He was later summoned to the principal’s office.

“I understand that the principal told him to take his hand out his pocket and stop shake up like badman. He took his hand out but was huffing and puffing and saying she was lying,” McPherson said.

“He is afraid because him seh di principal tell lie on him.”

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com