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Mother claims her daughter was provoked into writing disrespectful note

Mother claims her daughter was provoked into writing disrespectful note

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The mother of a child who was transferred from the St Joseph’s Convent Kingstown (SJCK) in 2013, says her daughter was provoked into writing a disrespectful note about her teacher.

The parent shared this view on March 26 at the High Court in Kingstown, while she was being cross-examined during the judicial review {{more}}of the transfer of her daughter to the Emmanuel High School Mesopotamia (EHSM).

Education officials say the child was transferred for disrespectful behaviour, however the mother said she was never informed that her child had been transferred, and brought legal action against education officials and the school.

During cross-examination, the mother stated that a named teacher had been targeting her daughter, who was a third form student at the SJCK at the time of the incident. She said her daughter was becoming frustrated and she had visited the school of her own volition because of the developing situation.

“I would have visited the school on numerous occasions without any resolve. Every time I visited, I would have been reassured that attempts would be made to resolve the situation,” she told the court.

When asked, the woman was adamant that any claims that her daughter had a history of bad behaviour at the school were unsubstantiated.

The mother said, prior to the alleged targeting of her daughter by the teacher, the child maintained a grade “A” rating for behaviour.

“…Except for when she entered Form 3 and that particular teacher who had been targeting my daughter and who also happened to be her class teacher, who does the ratings, moved her from an A to a C rating,” she said.

The woman said that when her daughter returned from the two days suspension on March 18, 2013, she accompanied the girl back to school as stipulated in the suspension letter. She stated that at the school, a meeting was convened to discuss the way forward for her daughter.

Attorney General Judith Jones-Morgan, who represents the Ministry of Education, chief education officer Lou-Anne Gilchrist, principal of the SJCK Calma Balcombe and senior education officer with responsibility for secondary schools Asfo Stephens, all defendants in the matter, asked the mother if she was told at that March 18 meeting of the circumstances surrounding her daughter’s suspension.

“This suspension stemmed from the fact that she (the daughter) had done an English Literature test in which the teacher would have written in her book that her work was untidy,” the woman answered.

The mother also disclosed that one month later, the girl had another test and the teacher discovered a note on the same page that she had written stating: “untidy like your kitty cat way nah wash.”

“So you agree that your daughter wrote those words?” asked Jones-Morgan.

“The fact that it was found in her book, yes, she has to take responsibility,” the mother replied.

According to the mother, what her daughter wrote about the teacher was not her “usual demeanour.”

“This note that was written, we need to realize, was written – this was the same very teacher who has been constantly targeting my daughter. Yes, my daughter is a 14-year-old who is still finding her identity and I think she was to a point of provocation, hence, probably the reason for my daughter writing such,” she said in front a courtroom packed with teachers, principals and education officials.

The mother also denied that her daughter walked off the school’s compound on March 13, after being asked by the principal to wait in the library for the suspension letter to take to her mother.

The Attorney General also pointed to other instances of misbehaviour by her daughter at the school in 2012; all of which the mother denied.

She also denied having been informed at the meeting of March 18, 2013 that her daughter would be transferred from the school.

The Attorney General asserted that following the meeting, the mother went to the Girls’ High School (GHS) to seek entry into that school for her daughter, but after Headmistress Andrea Bowman was informed that the teenage girl had walked off the school’s compound, her request was denied.

Allen denied this, adding that she never went back to the GHS a second time to seek entry into that institution for her daughter.

However, in a letter Bowman wrote to chief education officer Lou-Anne Gilchrist, subsequent the mother’s visit, Bowman stated that the mother visited the school to seek a transfer for her daughter from the SJCK to GHS.

“[The mother] told me the reasons for requesting the transfer, including the fact that her daughter had walked off the school’s compound in spite of being cautioned against so doing. I told [the mother] as far I was concerned, when a student walks off, she keeps walking,” Bowman’s letter read.

Bowman also indicated in the letter that the mother returned to the school about a week later with the same request.

Allen further denied receiving a letter in August 2013, informing her that her daughter would be transferred. She however said she received a letter, which accompanied the child’s report card at the end of the school year.

“The letter was addressed to me. The content was addressed to the principal of the Emmanuel School and it spoke of my daughter’s transfer to the Emmanuel High School Mesopotamia which was contradictory.”

“The fact that my daughter’s report said she was promoted to form 4S, I took her to school on September 2. I took my daughter to school. The school refused her, stating that she was transferred. I contacted my counsel and he advised me again to avoid a court involvement and that I speak with the Chief Education Officer,” the mother said.

She said on her visit to the Ministry of Education, she spoke to the Chief Education Officer about the matter, but did not like Gilchrist’s response.

“She (Gilchrist) responded by telling me about what she has heard about my daughter – that my daughter has a serious problem and she wanted me to get out of her office with body mannerisms,” the mother stated.

The case has been adjourned to May 13, 2015 for continued cross-examination by defence counsel Duane Daniel, who is representing the Cluny Board of Management, which has also been named as a defendant in the matter. The Cluny Board is a Roman Catholic organization under whose aegis the SJCK is operated.

Following cross-examination of the mother, Headmistress of the GHS Andrea Bowman is expected to testify via Skype from Ireland where she is on study leave.

The child’s mother, who is the claimant, is being represented by attorney Jomo Thomas. Counsel Rochelle Forde also appears for the Cluny Board of Management. The Attorney General is being assisted by lawyers Kezron Walters, Jelani Williams, Isis Gonsalves and Serefa Harper.

Although the court made an order on October 7, 2013 that the child attend the EHSM until final settlement of the matter, the teenager never turned up for classes there, but instead attends a co-educational institution in Kingstown, where she is said to be in the fifth form.

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