Advertisement 87
Advertisement 211
A student of Clare Valley Government School gestures as he prepares to take part in his school's graduation ceremony on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. In a general statement on Wednesday, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves spoke out against schools denying students the right to graduate as punishment. (Photo: Facebook/Clare Valley Government School)
A student of Clare Valley Government School gestures as he prepares to take part in his school’s graduation ceremony on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. In a general statement on Wednesday, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves spoke out against schools denying students the right to graduate as punishment. (Photo: Facebook/Clare Valley Government School)
Advertisement 219

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has spoken out against schools barring students from graduation ceremonies as punishment for breaking school rules.

He said on the state-owned NBC Radio on Wednesday that someone would sue a school over the issue and win.

Gonsalves did not speak to any specific case. However, there were discussions in the public sphere recently that a government-assisted primary school had barred a student from her graduation ceremony because she had been videotaped “whining” (dancing) in a classroom. 

“I find that the … Ministry of Education, senior officials are not monitoring carefully or at all some of the rules which some schools, some principals, some teachers put in place for graduation,” the prime minister said.

He said some schools deny students “the right to graduate for some unreasonable and disproportional reasons”. 

Advertisement 271

The prime minister said a student might be denied participation in their graduation ceremony for missing one of eight exams.

“So you can use those seven subjects and get into community college but you can’t graduate. You can get them and go into university but you can’t graduate,” the prime minister said.

“Some parents will put these schools in court and win,” said Gonsalves, a lawyer who is also minister of legal affairs. 

“They have this notion — … some ancient rules handed down from when I don’t know — that graduation is not a right but it’s a privilege. Well, I have news for you. It is a right and even if it was not so initially, it is a right on the basis of the doctrine of reasonable expectation,” Gonsalves said.

“Obviously, … if a student behaves badly and the behaviour is egregious. … but it mustn’t be used to punish somebody,” the prime minister said, adding, “Things have to be reasonable and proportionate. 

“By all means, we need to have rules, but the rules must be reasonable and proportionate. Of course, I’m sure that 99.9% of the rules are reasonable and proportionate but a few of them may well not be and sometimes the complaints which I get; so the senior officials in the ministry have to watch those.”

He said the government does not want a situation where everything is “centred-directed”. 

“You must give some latitude to the schools and their management.  But surely they have to stay within a broad frame of reasonableness and proportionality. I don’t think anybody could disagree reasonably with that,” the prime minister said.