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Beaten schoolgirl equally to blame in fight, says Minister


Trinidad Express / The teenager beaten into an unconscious state by classmates of the Mayaro Secondary School last Tuesday must accepted some responsible for the incident and will not be given special treatment, says Education Minister Anthony Garcia.

The Form Two pupil and three others were suspended for seven days. However, Garcia advised that the school principal apply for an extension to the suspension.

Speaking to the media following an hour-long meeting at the school on Monday, Garcia said, “All four students are culpable. There is no one student who can escape, even the student who was beaten. That student also has to accept some responsibility. The four students have been suspended for a period of seven days and instructions were given to the principal to apply for an extension to the suspension because we feel that what they have done really demands more than seven days’ suspension.”

Garcia said the ministry was also considering whether the female pupils should pay the ultimate price of expulsion.

“We would be dealing with this matter at the executive level at the Ministry of Education very shortly and decide what we are going to do because we are not going to tolerate this kind of behaviour in our school system. Our schools must be places where students can learn teachers can teach in resting safety. And when there are infractions in the rules of the school it is our responsibility to ensure that we take corrective action. And in this case corrective might mean a prolonged period of absence from the school and perhaps even expulsion of some of those students,” he said.

Garcia did not reveal why the 14-year-old pupil who was treated at the Mayaro District Hospital was suspended. He said, however, that the teen was “equally to blame”.

The meeting was attended by Garcia, Chief Education Officer (CEO) Harrilal Seecharan, Minister in the Ministry of Education Dr Lovell Francis, Mayaro MP Rushton Paray and National Parent/Teacher Association president Zena Ramatali.

School officials, the four pupils involved in the fight and their parents were also present.

Garcia said there has been a breakdown in the school’s disciplinary process and management programme. “If these two things were really dealt with then this would not have happened,” he said.

He noted that should the pupils be expelled they would be enrolled in a learning enhancement centre. Garcia said an in-depth investigation was launched into the incident. He said the four pupils and their parents were allowed to speak at the meeting. The ministry also shared a video clip of the fight, he said.

“We gave each student an opportunity to express her views and then gave parents a chance to ask questions and make certain comments. Arising out of all of these we are now in a position to state to the media and the general population exactly what transpired,” he said. Paray noted that he was pleased with the ministry’s response and stated that he was prepared to work with the stakeholders to ensure that a similar incident does not happen again.

Ramatali described the video as traumatic. She said she was disappointed with the level of parental involvement at the school. Ramatali said she was standing by the ministry’s decision as there was a “a clear issue of a breakdown in discipline at the school”. The incident occurred near the school after classes were dismissed.

No one intervened in the fracas until the female pupil was dragged out of a drain motionless and placed on the pavement. It was recorded and posted on social media.

The four minute, 12 second clip was shared multiple times with persons calling for an end to violence in schools. Several other pupils gathered around but did nothing to end the fracas, until the girl was kicked into a nearby drain. The female pupil was then dragged out of the drain. She appeared motionless. A passer-by then intervened and took the girl to the district health facility, the Express was told.

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