This is the question that lawyer Jomo Thomas is asking regarding the student who was reportedly expelled from the St. Joseph’s Convent Kingstown (SJCK) because of “misconduct”.
“This is a Catholic institution. What happened to the New Testament notion of redemption and forgiveness and second chance? That is precisely the teaching of Jesus Christ. So, if this was a more secular school, I could have seen — and I wouldn’t have agreed — but I probably could have understood,” Thomas told I-Witness News on Wednesday.
The student’s mother is contesting the transfer of the student to the Emmanuel High School Mesopotamia and the court last week ordered that the student continues her education at the SJCK until a lawsuit is heard.
Teachers at SJCK walked out of the school on Monday when the student turned up to class and stayed away on Tuesday also.
The student is said to have attended classes at SJCK on Wednesday and the school’s PTA met on Thursday to discuss the situation, even as the Principal Association have supported the action by principal at the SJCK, Calma Balcombe.
But while Thomas spoke of Christian virtues of forgiveness, he added, “it might be precisely because the school is a religious school that there is this notion that what happened is such a moral outrage,” said Thomas, who is representing the student’s mother in a lawsuit against the school principal, the Ministry of Education and two education officials.
“I think it was a bad thing what the child did. The child was punished for it and the child should be allowed to get an education in a setting that is pleasing to the child and is in keeping with the laws,” Thomas said.
I-Witness News understands that the decision to expel the student came after the student, in response to a written comment by a female teacher that the student’s work was “untidy”, wrote that the work was as untidy as a part of the teacher’s body that had not been washed for days.
Thomas was last week sworn in as a senator for the ruling Unity Labour Party.
He said that some persons have accused him of playing politics with the case, even as others have said that he should not take the case. (Thomas was involved in the case before he was asked to be a senator)
“Why not do the case?” he said.
“Let’s test all the issues in court and let the court pronounce, so we would know what we can do and what we can’t do. I don’t see why the entire education machinery is being mobilised against this young girl, and, worst of all, I don’t see any politics,” he said.
Thomas said people have been sending him electronic messages saying that the case is “a purely political case”.
“I don’t know where the politics came from in the case. All that is being asserted here is an attempt to protect the life chances of a young child, who is essentially under threat because there was an act that was done.
“Clearly, it was an act of indiscretion, clearly an act deserving discipline. … The school disciplined the child, the school suspended the child for two days, the school, in my mind, illegally refused to give a child a grade on an exam which she had done, because the student was not found cheating or anything like that, for them to withhold the grade from her,” he said during the interview on Wednesday.
However, a source briefed on the meeting of principals on Tuesday, said they were told that the student was never suspended or given zero.
The source said that the principal, the Ministry of Education and the student’s mother agreed to the transfer to Emmanuel Mespo.
He further stated that the “incident” for which the student was “disciplined” occurred during the second term of the last school year.
“I also heard some stories that the teachers may not want to interact with this child, but the student was disciplined in the second term. The same teachers who are the school now, presumably most of them, would have interacted with that student after the discipline in term three,” he said.
“It was an uneventful third term, except the student doing what she needed to do to ensure that she passed and was promoted to Form 4S,” he said.
He further told I-Witness News that persons are not giving any reasons why they are saying it is a political case.
In filing the lawsuit, the Government senator is acting on behalf of a client against officials of the government of which he is now a part.
“But that is not how it is being played. … But the point is that three of the four defendants are public officials and the ministry itself,” he said.