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School CP - March 2013

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The Freeport News, 5 March 2013

Anger after mass caning at school

By Lededra Marche
FN News Editor

Click to enlarge

Police are investigating an incident at Sister Mary Patricia Junior High School in which 29 students in one class were caned by a teacher.

The seventh grade boys and girls received punishment after some of them were allegedly disruptive in class.

But the father of one boy has complained to police and said he is launching civil action against the school after claiming his 12-year-old boy was badly injured in the incident.

Terrell Cornish took his son to the hospital back in early February where the injuries were so severe that the attending doctor had advised him to make a complaint to police.

Last night, Police Affairs Communications Officer Inspector Terecita Pinder confirmed they are investigating the complaint.

Cornish said, he and his wife Bridgeanne have been back and forth with the school since the incident occurred on February 6.

The male students were administered their punishment on the buttocks allegedly with a long stick while the females received theirs in their hands.

Three of the girls, however, had reportedly escaped as a result of them being late to class.

He learned of it at home that afternoon when his wife called him into bathroom to see his son's bruising.

Cornish immediately took his son to the hospital that night.

"He had a contusion. The doctor had to give him time off. He had to give him two days off from school because he couldn't sit down," Cornish said.

The father said he met with Principal Dominique Russell the next morning, armed with the sick slip and police form from the hospital, and met another set of parents at the school with the same queries.

He said he became even more angered at how the matter was handled when a meeting was called with the teachers connected to the incident.

In fact, Cornish said, some of the parents showed up for the meeting, but not the teacher who administered the punishment.

And, adding insult to injury, he said the school administration refused to produce the instrument that was used to administer the caning.

"My son was hit three times and that is the type of damage that would leave from only three cuts," he said, questioning the type of instrument and force that was used.

Other parents have contacted The Freeport News to tell of how their boys were caned across the bottom and received injuries.

Cornish said after getting no real results from the school administration or Superintendent Mary Cooper at the Department of Education, he revealed that he was going to launch a complaint with the police.

"I explained to them, I don't have a problem with them disciplining my kids, but punishing the whole class for a couple kids, that's another thing I don't agree with," he said.

Cornish said it is apparently the practice at that school to punish the entire class for a few students.

The Freeport News met with Principal Russell, who revealed that she was under the impression that the matter was settled after the teacher apologized, but as she has learned that Cornish intended to take legal action, she could not comment as the matter is now out of her hands.

Director of Education Lionel Sands, when initially contacted, knew nothing about the incident and had to contact Superintendent Mary Cooper to be apprised to "be able to speak to the matter intelligently."

In a follow up call to Sands, he revealed that he had only a verbal communication from Superintendent Cooper and was awaiting a written report.

However, he was informed that one of the senior masters was asked to assist the teacher with disciplining the seventh grade students, which, according to Sands, is normal.

Sands said he was informed that the school and education officials thought the matter was settled after the parent/teacher conference until last week and they were surprised that the matter had raised again.

As a result, the education director said he would need to wait for the written report to be able to get advice from the Attorney General's Office as to the ministry's reply.

However, he added that he has not received anything formal from any parent, other than what the superintendent indicated to him last week.

In the meantime, Cornish is hoping that the school's rules and regulations be restructured and similar matters must be handled differently in the future.

As a result, he is moving ahead with the police report and has attained the services of Attorney Wayne Munroe and Co.

According to Attorney Roberto Reckley, his office had not filed any document as his client was giving the police a chance to make a decision.

He also pointed out that criminal attorneys would not have any involvement in the prosecution aspect of the case.

"What we most likely will be doing is holding a watching breach in the matter where we sit and we watch and we see whether, in our opinion, everything is going the way it should," he said.

"Obviously we don't interfere with the police prosecution, but watching it is more for the benefit of the client to ensure that they feel satisfied at what is being done."

Attorney Reckley revealed that he is taking instructions from Cornish, who is taking steps to pursue the matter. "Obviously he will leave it at the feet of the Royal Bahamas Police Force then they will take the necessary steps in terms of formulating any charges should they decide to bring the proper person before the court," he said.

"We will wait to see exactly what happens in the criminal trial before we commence any civil action. That would be our position at this point. That could be subject to change because you know these things change on a daily basis depending on how the matter itself evolves."

© 2013 The Freeport News

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