Thu | Jan 18, 2018

Letter of the Day | Defiance sends mixed signals to students

Published:Tuesday | July 19, 2016 | 12:01 AM


The fact that Peter Espeut is one of The Gleaner's most objective and rational writers makes it extremely difficult for me to determine whether he had deliberately divested himself of those attributes, or was it the mere thought of his church group losing influence over a significant area of national life that led him to write such irrational commentary, published in the July 15, 2016 edition under the caption 'Expropriating church schools'.

How could Espeut feel proud of himself to be seen as a spokesman and apologist for a group of persons - school boards and school administrators - who are hell-bent on circumventing policy and directives laid down my the Ministry of Education? But it is not just a matter of these school boards and administrators trampling on the ministry's rulings.

The more serious implication is that their action runs counter to a fundamental principle of their very existence. As Minister Reid correctly reminded the administrators, "Schools, by nature, must be moral and ethical standard-bearers. They must follow guidelines as they expect students and parents to observe school rules."

School administrators cannot exonerate their flouting of the minister's policy simply on the basis that they disagree with the policy. So long as the minister is constitutionally responsible for articulating and enforcing policy for education, those who are charged with the responsibility to carry out those policies must do so without showing resistance to them.

Suppose the shoe was on the other foot?

Recently, the issue of the length and width of school uniforms gripped the nation's attention. As we recall, schools administrators were adamant that they were not prepared to accommodate students who failed to comply with uniform regulations. Despite the fact that the majority of the offending students expressed a desire to continue to wear the tighter-fitting uniforms, because they felt that school administrators were not being sensitive and just, the school administrators were not prepared to relent on their stance, reminding students and parents that rules are rules and they should be respected.

Now, the big question is: How would these school boards and administrators react if the students had insisted that rules or no rules, they were going to continue to turn up at school with their tight-fitting uniforms?

It is against the background of this clear defiance of the minister's directive by school boards and administrators that I find Espeut's article shocking and disappointing, because he chose to ignore the very essential issue of the schools being moral and ethical standard-bearers. For the truth is, any school administrator who has not assimilated this fundamental truth poses a real threat to the moral and ethical grounding of our children.

We are doing our children a terrible disservice by being to mute in our demand for greater transparency and accountability from school administrators. Would we be asking too much of school administrators to furnish stakeholders with annual reports?