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Discrimination? - Mother claims daughter stripped of head girl post because of religion

Published:Wednesday | October 7, 2015 | 12:00 AM
St Hilda's High School in Brown's Town, St Ann.

BROWN'S TOWN, St Ann:

The mother of a 16-year-old student at St Hilda's Diocesan High School in Brown's Town, St Ann, is charging discrimination after her daughter was stripped of the head girl position at the Anglican school, allegedly because she is a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses organisation.

At the same time, Rhonda Clarke, the mother of the student, Jade Bascoe, says while her daughter is not a member of the organisation, she has attended the Kingdom Hall a number of times.

In an interview with The Gleaner on Monday, Clarke admitted she had written 'Jehovah's Witness' as her daughter's religion on the application form when her daughter started attending the top-rated girls' school.

Efforts to speak with principal Heather Reid-Johnson were unsuccessful as she was said to be in meetings when the school was contacted on Monday and yesterday.

Clarke said she has not made a written complaint to the Ministry of Education, but believes the ministry should investigate the actions of the principal.

The mother said she was reminded that she was the one who wrote Jehovah's Witness on the school form and that the school can only go by that information.

"I am not a Witness, Jade is not a Witness. We only visit occasionally. I made a mistake and put it on the form," Clarke contends.

"Even then, the principal could have called me and explained the situation to me, instead of going ahead and

debadging Jade."

Clarke said it was the school's fault why the issue has reached the media as they could have acted differently.

She said her daughter was appointed to the post of head girl on Monday, September 21, and during a session when she was speaking, she used the word 'Jehovah' and that allegedly prompted the school authorities to check her file.

"Tuesday, she came home crying that she was no longer head girl because she was a Jehovah's Witness.

"She has decided that she will no longer take part in anything at the school. She will just concentrate on doing her CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate) examinations." Jade is expected to sit eight subjects in the examination.

 

STRICTRULES

 

The incident brings to the fore the issue of religion in education, as the Anglican school operates on Christian principles, while Jehovah's Witnesses are guided by another strict set of rules.

According to a website, thejehovahswitnesses.org, there is a set of 141 rules that Jehovah's Witnesses cannot break, and as it relates to education, Rule 90 states that they cannot "take on a leadership role at school".

Neither can they run for class president; go to school prom or school dance; attend class reunions; attend a class, workshop, or seminar sponsored by another church; engage in holiday parties at school; or make holiday artwork for school.

Meanwhile, human-rights advocate Patrick Lalor has taken issue with the development at

St Hilda's.

In a letter to The Gleaner, Lalor said the alleged action of the school is discriminatory.

"If there is any truth to this story ... examining it at a glance, 'DISCRIMINATION' pops up, but at a deeper look, there is a clear violation of [an]other fundamental human right. There is child abuse, and there is a clear imposition of the Anglican beliefs on the students of this institution," Lalor wrote.

He continued: "It is unbelievable, to say the least, that such blatant disregard for someone's right to choose their choice of place of worship, outright discrimination, child abuse and direct violation of human rights, can be coming from a Christian institution in 21st-century Jamaica."

rural@gleanerjm.com