Questions pending in the Calabar incident with athletes

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

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Dear Editor,

Recent world events suggest that there is significant moral decline all around. However, when it happens at home it takes on more significant meaning.

I am saddened by the severe moral decline that has taken deep root in Jamaica. Seemingly, there is need for a new revolution in morality to stem this tide. The responsibility for change lies squarely in the home, the Government, religious institutions, and social organisations.

Arguably, the public educational system is one of our last bastions of hope to preserve democracy and civility. There is a clear need to review and reform our educational system for currency, relevance and effectiveness, and for redoubling efforts to cultivate a shared sense of morality which is so badly needed.

Unprecedented cases such as the recently publicised incident at Calabar High School involving student athletes and the school staff bear out this point. To illustrate, I will raise some questions emanating from the Calabar case.

1. What messages have the school leaders sent by the way they have managed and communicated about this incident?

2. When the teacher reported the assault initially, what guidance did the school administration provide?

3. Are there guidelines in a school-and-police protocol about how matters such as alleged assaults on school property should be handled?

4. With the latter part of the alleged incident occurring in the presence of a room full of witnesses, what prompted the administration to be so tardy and indecisive in its application of consequences?

5. If the administration was satisfied with the initial consequences for the students, what was their reasoning for applying a suspension months later?

6. What are the guidelines for conducting extra-curricular school events? What is the required pupil-teacher ratio for supervision?

7. What policies and procedures exist in the school about the management and use of school resources, such as cots? How are staff members made aware of these?

8. How has the administration, coaches and other staff made it clear to students that it is unacceptable to enter a classroom not on their schedule and, worse yet, to publicly challenge the teacher in charge in that room?

9. What are the consequences for the coach who allegedly acted disrespectfully towards the physics teacher?

10. What prompted the administration to act in such a seemingly adversarial fashion towards the teacher-reporter?

11. What supports have the school and teachers' association provided for the teacher affected? Who else might be in need of support?

12. In what ways are schools ensuring equity-mindedness in curricular and extra-curricular programmes? What systems are in place to ensure that these programmes are appropriately staffed and resourced to benefit all students?

13. Is there protocol from the Ministry of Education to deal with matters of safety and security in all schools? Is there a shared definition of suspension and expulsion which makes clear that in both instances students cannot be on school property or participate in any school-related activity? Is there an explicit universal disciplinary process that applies in all schools? What guidelines are in place for conducting school investigations?

14. How well is the current national curriculum addressing issues of civic responsibility, community safety, conflict resolution, fair play, bystander versus upstander behaviour, respect for environment and authority, resilience, integrity, ethical decision-making, etc?

There is still hope for positive change. Let's capitalise on this opportunity to move forward to a brighter future.

David McAdam

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