A lawyer representing a student at the St. Joseph’s Convent Kingstown (SJCK) and her mother says the principal of the school, Calma Balcombe, should be held in contempt of court.
The lawyer, Jomo Thomas, said that the court on Friday ordered that the 14-year-old student at the all-female school be allowed to attend classes until an existing matter involving the student is resolved.
But I-Witness News understands that teachers at the school walked out sometime after the student turned up for classes yesterday (Monday).
Thomas told I-Witness News yesterday that the matter was before the court and he could only give “bare-bone facts”.
But when probed, he said: “Basically, it had to do with the discipline of the child or the ill-discipline of the child. But I don’t think that particular point is relevant to the story at all. But if you understand what I am saying, the child was disciplined in the suspension and the refusal to give the child a grade.”
He said the court order on Friday arose from an incident in March, which led to the suspension of the student for two days and a zero being entered for a quiz (test) she took.
While he did not detail the incident, he said that it had “nothing to do with cheating”.
He said that after the incident in March, the student’s mother was called in and spoke with “the hierarchy” of the school and the Ministry of Education.
“The child was suspended for two days. The school, in its wisdom or non-wisdom decided to give the student zero grade for … a quiz which she had taken,” Thomas said.
He said the student returned to school for the third term “and there was absolutely no incident during the third term.
Thomas further told I-Witness News that the student took her exams, and was given a report card indicating that she was promoted to Form 4 Science.
The lawyer further said that the student was given a letter addressed to the principal of the Emmanuel High School Mesopotamia.
“… the letter was not addressed to her or her mother, but she (the student) was given a letter to take to her (the student’s) mother,” Thomas emphasised.
“And the letter essentially says: as per our conversation, this child was transferred to Emmanuel Mespo and we hope you would extend all the necessary courtesies,” he said.
Thomas said that the child’s mother came to him for legal advice.
“… and I told the mother that since the child has a report card that says she is promoted to Form 4S, St. Joseph’s Convent, she should take the child back to school on the day when school reopens.
“The mother took the child, the principal refused to allow the child to sit in the class and told the child that she is no longer at the school,” he explained.
He said that the mother then took the student to Ministry of Education and an official there told the mother that the child is no longer a student at SJCK.
Thomas said he then filed for judicial review.
That application was accepted and the court on Friday, ordered, among other things, that the child be returned to the St. Joseph’s Convent with immediate effect until the matter is resolved, Thomas said.
He said a copy of the court order was taken to the school and a copy was given to the student’s mother.
The child turned up to class Monday morning but the principal “refused to allow the child in the school,” Thomas said.
“From where I sit, that, to me, is a clear contempt of court because the order said the child should be returned to school with immediate effect until the matter is resolved,” he further stated.
He said he had heard about teachers walking out of the school on Monday after the student turned up.
“I heard about that, but that is strange… I don’t know how the other teachers got involved in the incident because this was a strict order from the court to the principal of the school.
“If anybody at all should have been told anything, and I don’t see any need for anybody to be told anything, it was the teacher who teaches Form 4S. That was no business of any other teacher,” Thomas said.
Thomas said that what was bad about the incident was that “because of the improper conduct of the hierarchy of that school, all of the students at that school lost the chance to be educated today”.
Regarding the next step, he said, “I think that the school is in contempt, the principal is in contempt and I would want to see the principal sanctioned.”
Asked about the type of sanctions he would like to see, Thomas said, “I can’t speak to that, sir. It is the court of law that could make those sanctions. If I were a judge I would tell you what I would have done but I am not a judge so I would not speculate.
“The proper course of action, if we are going to be a country of laws, a court issued an order, you get a lawyer … and make an application to the court and see if you can get the court to rescind the order. You can’t take it upon yourself to flout the order of the court. An order of the court, that is the status quo until that’s overturned,” Thomas said.
“If the matter is not resolved soon, we will have to take further legal action to ensure that the matter is resolved in the interest of our client,” he further told I-Witness News.