Parents take legal action against Education Ministry over alleged bullying incident

Monday, February 13, 2017 - 12:45

A pre-action protocol letter sent to Education Minister Anthony Garcia on behalf of relatives of Tristan Khan, is expected to be sent to the ministry's legal department for perusal today.

Khan, of Standard One, suffered a broken arm after being brutally beaten by a bully at the Mayaro Government Primary School on February 1.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Garcia said he had not yet seen the letter which was filed by attorney Douglas Bayley on behalf of Khan's family.

Once he receives the letter, Garcia said, he will send it to the legal department following which recommendations will be made as to how the matter should be deal with. The Ministry has 21 days to respond else proceedings will be filed at the High Court.

Admitting to receiving a full report from the School Supervisor who was mandated to investigate the matter, Garcia said he could not reveal the findings as the issue had taken on a legal dimension.

"Now that the issue has assumed legal proportions I cannot divulge the recommendations of the investigation. I will be conferring with the the Permanant Secretary and the Chief Education Officer and we will be deciding a way forward," Garcia said.

Asked whether the Government planned to bring about better policies to deal with bullying, Garcia said, "There are policies in place for bullying that deal with violence and indiscipline in schools and how principals should handle it."

"The principal has to ensure the safety of all students. We have specific guidelines that we give to the principal and teachers so as to ensure that they do their duties responsibly," Garcia added.

Told of complaints that some principals may seek to cover up incidents to protect the reputation of the school, Garcia responded, "I have to choose my words carefully but I can safely say that in the school system, the principals have been discharging their responsibility adequately when it comes to the safety of the children."

In the pre-action protocol letter, Bayley called for the immediate removal of a senior school official from the investigation on the basis that his "undisclosed personal relationship with the perpetrator's family, constituted grounds for conscious and/or unconscious bias".

The relatives also called for the immediate suspension of the senior school official as well as an investigation into whether his misconduct breached the regulations of the Teaching Service Commission.

Bayley called for an investigation by the Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams into the conduct of officers at the Mayaro Police Station who refused to take a report from Khan's parents about the assault. He also called on the Ministry to have better policies on bullying, as well as an investigation into other reports of bullying at the school.

Tristan was hospitalized on February 1, after being kicked, beaten and stomped upon by a classmate. He underwent surgery at the Sangre Grande Area Hospital where doctors attempted to reattach his elbow to his arm. Doctors told his parents that they were uncertain if Tristan will ever regain use of his hand and arm.

He was discharged from hospital last week Saturday.

SOURCE: (Radhica De Silva)