The 56-year-old female educator who was assaulted at Tivoli Gardens High School in Kingston on Monday was attacked because she incurred the wrath of a student who was gambling in the classroom, the police have reported.
Commanding officer for the Kingston Western Police Division, Senior Superintendent Michael Phipps, responding to reports that the student had entered the classroom selling an illegal substance, told the Jamaica Observer that their investigation had shown otherwise.
“Nobody told us about any illegal substance. We did confirm that they were using the classroom for gambling purposes and the teacher wanted to start her class and asked them to leave, that’s when the whole thing started,” the lawman told the Observer on Tuesday. He said the student — who was caught on camera in a vicious tussle with the senior educator who suffered bruises and swelling to her face and upper body — had been arrested and charged but was subsequently released on bail into the custody of his parents. The 16-year-old is set to appear before the Juvenile Court on June 21 to answer to a charge of assault occasioning bodily harm.
Phipps, in the meantime, said the police had been trying to meet with the leadership of the school in the weeks prior to Monday’s incident, given several concerns specific to the school, but without success.
“We have been trying to have meetings with the principal and we have not been able to have that meeting yet. We looked at Thursday of last week, he had a difficulty and could not be at the meeting. We were trying to reschedule for this week, but he fainted yesterday and called to say he is in the hospital,” SSP Phipps explained. He said the police intends to have that meeting as soon as the principal is well enough.
In the meantime, while not willing to reveal the specific concerns the police had with the school until after the meeting with the leadership, he said, “We are aware that there are some things that are happening in our schools that we would prefer not to have happen and that includes gambling”.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Education, in responding to the situation, said it had been unaware of the specific challenges observed by the police.
“The education ministry has not received any data to indicate either a spike [in indiscipline] either at that specific school or the area in general,” a ministry official said. However, the official acknowledged that teachers have indicated that coming out of the pandemic, students being absent from the structured environment have had some difficulty resettling into the structured space.
The ministry went on the reinforce that in recognising the potential for these challenges, it has been working with the Ministry of Justice’s restorative justice programme to help students develop skills in learning how to diffuse conflicts in a non-violent manner. “This is a programme in 104 schools,” the ministry said.
It further said there was a meeting between teachers at Tivoli Gardens High and representatives of the School Safety and Security Unit of the ministry and the guidance counsellors since the incident.
“They discussed challenges and ways how they can identify strategies to diffuse potential problems and work on improving student behaviour,” the Observer was told.
In the video, which has sparked furious debate on social media platforms, the student is seen pushing the teacher in front of a chalkboard. The teacher takes up a desk, which is taken from her and thrown aside by the enraged teen.
Amidst laughing and cheering from other students in the classroom, the teacher and the student tussled further before several other male students intervened and attempted to keep them apart.
One of the male students who intervened was heard telling his errant peer to release the educator while another student tried to pull him away.
SOURCE: JAMAICA OBSERVER