Banned for bad word - 13-year-old blocked from school since November for using expletives in the presence of a teacher
With the new school term set to begin in days, Venessa Todd is a worried mother as she is unsure what to do with her 13-year-old son, who has been banned from classes since mid-November because of his use of expletives while at school.
The distraught mother said she received a letter from the Westmoreland-based Little London High School on November 15, informing her that her son was found guilty of using expletives in the presence of a teacher.
The letter, which was signed by the principal Garfield James, requested that Todd and child should attend a meeting at the school on November 19 at 8:30 a.m. to discuss the matter.
"I went there the morning, and when I went there, the principal told me that he was not taking back my son because he cursed a bad word in front of the teacher," Todd told The Sunday Gleaner.
She said that she went to the office of the Child Development Agency (Child Protection and Family Services Agency) in Savanna-la-Mar the next day to seek some intervention.
"They were there talking to my son and they said that it is not the first time the principal doing this stuff and they have already spoken to him about it, because a child cannot be expelled for just a bad word without taking him to the board or taking him to see a guidance counsellor," said Todd.
"They said I must send him back to the school and I sent him back on the Monday morning, and the principal take him off the school compound at 12 o'clock and put him out on the road and said he must go home," she added.
She said she sent him to school the following day as was instructed by Child Development Agency officials, and he was again asked to leave the compound. As such, she travelled to the Ministry of Education office in Montego Bay, St James, to get some help.
"The only thing they did was to call the principal, and the principal keep on telling them that he was going to call them back by such time, and they keep on telling me that he was going to call them back," she charged.
According to Todd, she has made three trips so far to the Ministry of Education Region Four office, but she is yet to hear whether her son has been given clearance to go back to school.
She said on one occasion she heard the person in the education ministry's office on the phone pleading with the administrator to see reason, even reminding him that the child was from a volatile community and that he was young.
Todd said the child's father also tried to seek audience with the principal but he was also told that the child would not be readmitted to his school.
She added that she has tried to get a letter from the principal to clarify her child's status at the institution as well, but that request was denied.
"When I went down there, I asked him, what if you throw my son out on the road and anything should happen to him, they are going to come to me, because the police are going to say that I don't have any proof that you expel him, so can I get a letter please to show that you expel him and why you expel him from school, and he said that he was not giving me any letter," said Todd.
She further alleged that the principal has indicated that he would only give her a letter after the child had been accepted into another school.
When The Sunday Gleaner contacted the principal late last week, he dined that child had been expelled but provided no information on his status or if he would be allowed to resume classes next week.
"Expulsion is done by the school's board of management. A student cannot be expelled unless he goes through the board of management, so I cannot confirm that," said James.
"Did she have a letter that the board gave her that the child was expelled?" he asked. When pressed on his decision to instruct the child to leave the compound James repeated, "I don't have the power to put out a child, the school board does."
He then went on to say that he was busy and asked that additional questions be directed to the chairperson of the board or the education ministry before terminating the call.