Student assaults teacher
SPOT VALLEY, St James — A teacher who said she was slapped several times in the face by a ninth-grade female student whom she had reprimanded is appealing to the education ministry to do more to ensure educators’ safety.
The attack, which occurred at Spot Valley High School in St James, has triggered fear among staff as it is also alleged that the car tyre of a colleague who had helped transport the teacher to hospital was punctured the day after the incident.
“A student draped and boxed me several times because I said, ‘Stop the fighting in class,'” the maths teacher, who asked not to be identified by name, told the Jamaica Observer.
She said the matter has since been reported to the police.
“I’m emotionally scarred, distraught. [I] don’t feel safe attending work none at all, because you don’t know when another student might feel the hype and want to try it again,” she added.
She has not returned to school since. At least one of her colleagues has indicated an unwillingness to go back into the classroom if the student returns to school after her 10 days’ suspension is up. In a voice note, she expressed her dissatisfaction with the punishment meted out to the student.
“Now the talk of the town is, ‘Pickney box Miss… and get 10 days.’ Ten days fi box down teacher? What is 10 days!” she raged.
She said other educators are reluctant to work at Spot Valley High, and those who do are now uneasy.
“Something has to be done about the pickney dem!” she demanded.
The teacher who was allegedly hit in the face is pleading with the education ministry to intervene.
“We need to have that reassurance and support from them so that we know that we are safe,” she appealed.
She said, coupled with some students’ bad behaviour, the school also has breaches in its perimeter fencing and lacks sufficient security guards.
“Safety in the parking lot for teachers’ properties [is lacking] as several vehicles in the parking lot have been damaged by students. Tyres have been slashed, tyres being cut by objects to puncture them,” she stressed.
When the Observer contacted Spot Valley High Principal Richard Thompson he confirmed the teacher’s report.
“Yes, there was such an incident on Wednesday last week. So far since the incident we have collected our reports from all parties, which included the teachers, and the student involved, and other students who would have been in the classroom at the time,” Thompson said.
He noted that the student at the centre of the brawl has been suspended.
“There is further investigation going on. The matter has been sent to the personnel committee of the board for them to do their continuous investigation and to call that matter — as it relates to the student — with the parents for further interrogation,” he revealed.
“I can also confirm that on Thursday the right back tyre of a teacher’s van was slashed with a sharp object. As it relates to the perimeter fence, we would have been in dialogue with the Ministry of Education, which so far has done their procurement and have the matter being dealt with as to getting that perimeter fence up. So, yes, we do have a perimeter fence issue,” Thompson added.
He said he and his staff are scared.
“On Friday I would have seen my staff in a mood that… we were all in a scared mood. I would tell you myself we were in a mood where we were wondering what is really happening and if this is really happening here at Spot Valley High. So, we had a meeting and we would have come up with things that we could do in the interim until we get certain things in place,” he added.
He said the Government has provided funding for the school to procure cameras and that process is near completion.
“It is just a pity that it happened now. We do have funding for that and we have been speaking with suppliers. That is in place. We would have already paid half the amount of the money to get fencing so there is some form of feeling of safety. It is sad that this has happened although we would have had those in the pipeline coming to be done, starting as soon as December,” the principal explained.
“It is sad that there is this attack on my teachers and staff on a whole. I think it is just for us as human beings to understand that our teachers, especially my teachers here, have taken their time to teach… Somehow it is not appreciated. There are some students, I can tell you, [who] do appreciate my teachers here. We just have things overwhelming here that is really affecting the learning process,” he said.
Today’s educators, the principal added, have to play multiple roles.
“We have to be here as not only as teachers but we’re here as security, as mothers, as grandfathers. [But] we really want to spend most of the time dealing with educating our youths,” he said.
“The students that we’re dealing with here, they have a lot of problems, and the minister again has put things in place, but it’s for the few — they can only afford some students. So we have case management going on… we tend to put a lot of interventions in place, and we are really hoping for the best,” Thompson said.
In June last year, following of series of attacks on teachers, then Jamaica Teachers’ Association President Winston Smith encouraged educators to stand up and fight back. In an interview with the Observer he said teachers should not roll over and play dead and let students think they are pushovers.
“It doesn’t faze me if people want to castigate me for it, but I do not want my teachers to just sit down and allow themselves to become a victim,” a fiery Smith declared. “So, because you’re trying to be professional you end up [being] professionally dead?”