'Ripple effect'

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'Ripple effect'

JTA head blames OCA for more student attacks on teachers

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Senior staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, February 21, 2020

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HEAD of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) Owen Speid is blaming the seeming increase in attacks on educators on the Office of the Children's Advocate (OCA), which, he says, is enabling wayward students.

Speid made the comment yesterday while speaking with Top of the Morning host Richie B on The Edge 105 FM.

“As a nation, we should be condemning this action outrightly. There's no sense in saying that you know who is wrong and who is right in these circumstances. A teacher is supposed to be one very much revered as someone close to a parent, because, you know, children spend most of their waking hours with teachers more so than even with their parents. It is really a sad situation that we are in at this time. It is not good for the children who are attending school and really want to learn, and it is not good for future generations of children and teachers.

“As you know, teachers are leaving the classrooms in droves and some of these things will help to push them away even further. The JTA is very much concerned. We are listening and we are looking, and we are not pleased that the Office of the Children's Advocate, for example, sending the wrong signal that teachers should apologise to students who are disruptive in the first place and cause other reactions to come, and then you only hear that the teachers should apologise to the students. So that is sending that message and there's a ripple effect — we're seeing it; we've seen it. Since that comment we're seeing it,” Speid noted.

He was referencing media reports which said that the student who was engaged in a verbal row with Pembroke Hall High School teacher Marsha Lee Crawford was demanding an apology from the educator following a disciplinary hearing.

The issue stemmed from a video recording that went viral, in which the teacher was captured issuing threats to the student.

She later said that the incident caught on camera was the result of a stand-off between her and the male student, who had been accused of stealing a phone from a student from another class.

The recording triggered outrage on social media with hundreds of users calling for the teacher's resignation. The incident occurred in November last year.

At the disciplinary hearing, which took place earlier this month, the school's disciplinary committee asked that the teacher apologise to the board, the school, and the student population.

Added to that, the OCA, which represented the student in the matter, said the student, too, wanted a public apology.

Speid said that since then, the JTA has been in dialogue with the OCA, though not for that particular reason.

“We have communicated with them. We know that many of the children are troubled. We're aware of that but at the same time, what the schools are asking of some of these children is really simple — to abide by certain school rules. If you notice the deans of discipline are coming under fire because the children are seeing them as a threat, but what we know is that there are some simple rules, basic rules — just uniforms, grooming, these little things that should make a good man or a good woman in the future — and the children are just not conforming. And, on top of that, they are getting physical,” Speid stated.

Earlier this week, the principal of Homestead Primary School, Sophia Deer, was reportedly injured following an altercation with a student.

A day later, it was reported that the dean of discipline at Oracabessa High School in St Mary was allegedly attacked by a male student while reprimanding him.

Last month, classes were suspended at Cornwall College in Montego Bay, St James, following an altercation between a parent and the dean of discipline on the school's compound.

Yesterday, the JTA president said that a strong message must be sent to students in terms of disciplinary actions.

“These children nowadays will tell you that they will hurt a child and take some days. In other words, the punishment that they are given by way of suspension, that is not effective because some of them would maybe rather to stay home... What we need [is] to revert to the days when a student like this one should be caned, and I make no bones about that. I don't care what the human rights people want to say.

“I am saying it loud and clear that these children, who are operating in this way and believe they can just beat up the teachers and abuse the institution and everybody who comes there and put people's lives at risk, endanger the other children, that they should be caned,” said Speid.

He went further to say that delinquent students should be “tried in the court of law” and in the end be punished.

In November 2017, however, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, while in the House of Representatives, reiterated his commitment to not only banning corporal punishment in schools, but generally in society, so it can no longer be an option.

Referencing United Nations Children's Fund report, A Familiar Face: Violence in the Lives of Children and Adolescents then, the prime minister said that the report showed a large number of Jamaican children are dying violently, or are regularly subjected to sexual violence and violent discipline in their homes, schools, and communities.

Meanwhile, Speid is urging the nation's teachers to continue to be the standard-bearers of leadership “because leadership is lacking elsewhere”.

“I want to say to my colleagues that they need to try their very best to remain as professional as they can be, and to do their duties [and] carry out their responsibilities. I would like to say to the children that they have rights, but with rights come responsibility, and they need to understand that they have a responsibility to be respectful. I would like to say to Jamaica and the parents that they need to inform their children that the teachers are in charge of them when they go to school and they must be obedient and they must be respectful, and they must carry out their responsibilities in the most honourable ways,” said Speid.


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