Ministry suspects schools failing to report incidents of indiscipline as required
Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
Ministry of Education-compiled data contained in the annual schools' census has revealed that it has on record that just under 5,000 students were suspended or expelled from schools across Jamaica over the last four academic years.
The data has sparked renewed concerns that schools are increasingly failing to report the incidents of indiscipline in the institutions of learning.
The lion's share of that number - 4,854 students - were suspended, and 119 students were expelled between the 2009-2010 and 2012-2013 academic years from primary, all-age, primary and junior high, secondary, technical high, and agricultural high schools.
A ministry spokesperson told The Sunday Gleaner that the figures understate the true picture of indiscipline that exists in schools across the country.
"There is a high possibility that there is under-reporting," the spokesperson said.
Back in February 2011, The Sunday Gleaner reported that statistics from the education ministry painted a worrying picture of indiscipline in schools in Jamaica, as some 26,000 students were suspended and hundreds more expelled over a three-year period.
The statistics provided by the ministry were compiled from reports of suspensions and expulsions received from all regions by public, private, and independent schools during the 2006-2007, 2007-2008, and 2008-2009 academic years.
FIGURES COULD BE HIGHER
At that time, the education ministry was careful to point out that the figures were estimates and could be higher, especially after factoring in the likelihood of under-reporting.
During the 2006-2007 to 2008-2009 academic years, an average of 8,600 students were suspended in each academic year, while no fewer than 506 of their peers were booted from school.
Once again, the education ministry did not provide a breakdown of the reasons for the disciplinary measures taken against the students, but the Education Regulations 1980 governs and carefully sets out the grounds on which a child can be suspended or expelled from school. It states that "the principal of a public educational institution may suspend from the institution, for a period not exceeding 10 days, any student whose conduct, in his opinion, is of such a nature that his presence in that institution is having or is likely to have a detrimental effect on the discipline of the institution".
A student can also be suspended for committing "any act which causes injury to any member of staff or to any other student in that institution".
The education regulations also state that "except in special cases, a student shall only be suspended or excluded from a public educational institution after other efforts have been made to effect an improvement in the conduct of the student".
According to the 33-year-old set of laws, when a principal suspends a student, he or she must, with dispatch, give notice of the suspension to the students' council and the parent or guardian of that student, as well as make a report to the board, stating the reasons for the suspension.
During the period of the suspension, the board of the public educational institution is required to investigate the matter, after which the student can be reinstated with or without a reprimand, or a warning can be given to the student, and where appropriate, to the parent or guardian.
After the investigations have been completed, the school board is also at liberty to "suspend the student for a further period not exceeding five school days beyond the period of suspension already given"; or it can "instruct the principal to exclude permanently the student from attending that institution and shall inform the minister of such action".
According to the regulations, a child may enter another school after being expelled from a particular one.
"A student who has been permanently excluded for disciplinary reasons from a public educational institution may be admitted to another public educational institution if a confidential report of the circumstances surrounding the exclusion is given to the principal of that other institution," read a section of the regulations.