Anglin defends JGHS events

| 21/01/2010

(CNS): Following the disruptions at John Gray High School on Tuesday in the immediate aftermath of the 5.9 earthquake, the education minister has said it was regrettable that a student had to be restrained but that security at the school was vital to its management. Rolston Anglin said that parents needed to know children can be safe at school but blamed them for adding to the problems. Chief Officer Mary Rodrigues commended staff and teachers over their handling of the evacuation, although the minister, who was reportedly overseas at the time, has said that, following the incident, the emergency response would be reviewed.

In his first statement since the events at the school, which included the reported injuries sustained by a student who was restrained by police, Anglin stated that established procedures have to be carried out during an emergency so all students can be accounted for and that all students had to be protected.

“The last thing we want to see is a student being restrained by police, but when the safety of staff, other students and parents is threatened, we have to act,” said the minister. “However, students and teachers must know that they can safely come to school without fear of intimidation. Without an orderly and secure environment, our students and staff cannot be optimally managed and cared for.”

Anglin said that an official report of the incident reveals that the Year 11 student in question, who normally attends the Alternative Education Centre, was at the JGHS Behaviour Unit as part of his individualized education plan. 

“In the aftermath of the earthquake, he became agitated and broke away from staff, and left the compound without permission,” the report stated. “He returned to school shortly thereafter at the persuasion of staff and was determined to wait at the front gate for a family member to collect him from school.  Given the number of parents who chose to collect students after the earthquake and the number of students who were waiting near the front of the school, staff members instructed all students to return to classes until family members actually arrived in order to restore order to the campus and ensure proper supervision of students.”

According to the reported details, the student refused to leave the gate area and became aggressive and was then restrained by the police, who escorted him back to the Behaviour Unit, where he was counselled by trained staff. 

“He once again broke away from staff and ran back to the front gate, where he threatened the principal and a police officer with a large stick,” the report stated. “Two members of staff disarmed the student.  At that point, a family member arrived at the gate and was admitted and accompanied the student and counselling staff to a nearby room, where he was counselled until he was sufficiently calm to leave the compound with his family member.”

The ministry said that staff have been in touch with the family of the student and will continue to support the transition of the student back into the education system.

Despite complaints about how things were handled in the wake of the earth tremor by a number of parents, Rodrigues stated that staff are to be commended for the effectiveness with which they vacated the school buildings and ensured student safety and an orderly assembly according to established disaster protocols.

“Although parents and students were understandably anxious about the earthquake, particularly in light of the recent events in Haiti, it is essential that established procedures of the school are followed to ensure that all students can be accounted for and their safety ensured. Student safety is the first responsibility of any government school following any emergency situation,” she stated.

Education officials met on Wednesday, to review government schools’ emergency plans, although Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler pointed out that they already have established procedures, which were followed.   “The public should know that our schools have earthquake plans, which were developed in partnership with Hazard Management. Our teachers ensured that students were evacuated from the buildings and remained in open areas until they received the all clear from Hazard Management yesterday morning,” Wahler stated.

Anglin said that his Cabinet colleague, Community Services Minister Mike Adam, had reported that things had gone smoothly at the vast majority of schools, despite the high levels of anxiety, but acknowledged that some things that did not go so well. “Our focus now at the ministry is to ensure we learn from these incidents to make sure we are better prepared in the future,” the education minster said. 

As far as JGHS was concerned, he said that while it was understandable that anxieties ran high, he also pointed the finger at parents for adding to the problem.  “I understand that staff members were put in a difficult situation with some students refusing to follow directions, leaving campus without permission, and in some cases with encouragement from parents,” Anglin suggested.

“We simply cannot have this happening. Schools have the ultimate responsibility for students when on campus. It may not seem necessary for students to sign out before leaving a school, but it is the only way we can account for each student in an emergency situation, and ensure that we meet our duty of care. What if buildings had collapsed? How would we have known who to look for?”

Anglin said the schools needed the support and trust from parents to act as calmly as possible when disaster strikes.

Rodrigues said a debriefing with “top level Ministry and Education Services staff” has already taken place and that a list of urgent short-term improvements had been identified. A debriefing has also taken place at John Gray and a meeting with the PTA executive is planned for Friday, 22 January.  “We share parents’ concern for the safety of their children, and the way forward must involve both their input and cooperation, if we are to be able to protect our students,” she added. 

Wahler also said school counsellors and educational psychologists, under the leadership of Head of Student Services Brent Holt, are making preparations to provide counselling support for students and staff.   She also reported the first evidence of structural damage at public buildings with minor damage reported at three schools. A superficial, hairline crack appeared in Bodden Town Primary School’s library; a crack was spotted over a door in a North Side Primary modular classroom; and an already cracked beam at Leading Edge School cracked further. Public Works Department is conducting repairs.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    People need to stop ASSUMING that the POlice is at fault!!!  The parents need to spend a few days in that school to truly see how these kids are so unrulely, ill mannered, disrespecful and so much more. i was disgusted to see the way these "little boys" present themselves in school. They are trying to intimidate the other students and now the leaders of the school.

    If the "Trouble Makers" are such good kids in school, then why do they need to have Police on campus?  i dont remember Police being there when i attended 15yrs ago!! They need to have more discipline at home and to have RESPECT for their elders and people who are trying to show them a better way of Life!!! Even more the parents of these "Trouble makers" also need some discipline themselves.

    I see that majority of them that were REBELS years ago are now 6ft under!!

    Parents and kids you can do much better!!!

    Make Cayman Proud!!

    • Anonymous says:

      I have to agree with this post.  Parent also need to teach their children respect and to respect authority.   I know this has nothing to do with the earthquake, but just take a look at the uniforms again.  Pants baggy, unhemmed, underwears showing…..come on you aren’t going to tell me that the parents don’t ever see their children leave the house.  I would also think they go with the children to the uniform shop.  Get uniforms that properly fit, the majority of these boy’s uniforms are to big, to long and just plain sloppy…I thought this had changed but it looks like it is back to where it was. 

  2. Anonymous says:

    I can’t believe the stupid comments by on this subject. Rolston, (as everyone should be able to see by now), has a mind of his own and don’t need any instructions from Mac.

    Parents need to teach their children to respect authority, no matter if you like the person or not, respect is due. When respect is not taught from an early stage those children then become unruly adults with no respect for their parents or anyone else.

  3. Anonymous says:

    with all due respect, how can we know our kids are safe at school when already this year, one had to be air ambulanced to Jamaica with head injuries, another seemingly has been beaten up by Police because he was in a state of panic following an earthquake and another was stabbed. 

    I have respect for all who come here to do a good job but we have to accept that there are people who come here just for the money and bully our people by abuse of the authority their positions carry. 

    Whatever the student at the high school did, was probably a result of panic.  I understand that some teachers were so panicked that they got in their cars and drove off.  This apparently is a natural reaction.  Did the Police grab the teachers and force them back to school?  No, but it seems from eye witnesses that they grabbed a defenceless 15 year old boy and basically assaulted him and now of course teachers and police will stick to their story and lie if they have to to protect themselves.

    I have a school aged child who has had some wonderful teachers.  He has also had some truly awful teachers who were obviously prejudiced, ignorant and lazy who made my child’s life hell at school.  I’m sure it is the same with some of the Police as I have heard horror stories of what some Police have done to young boys and men of this Island.  they strut around looking for trouble.  I heard of one boy who was pepper srpayed in the face by police while crossing the road trying to avoid a fight which had just broken out.  He was told he was under arrest and the police just left him in the road with pepper in his eyes.  If his friends had not helped him, he could have been run over.  The sad thing is, we are paying for these people to abuse our children and ourselves and until we hold them accountable for their actions, things will only get worse. 

    If the Police had done to my child, what they apparently did to the boy at the high school, I would not rest until they got what they deserved.  I am urging anyone who saw this incident, please go to the pollice station and give a statement.  He may not be your child but next time, it could be your child.  We can put a stop to people coming here and abusing their power if we look out for each other.

    I have been through 5 earthquakes.  the last was the scariest.  I was shaking and close to tears for a good hour after and i am an adult.  Imagine what it was like for the children and instead of being calm and collected, it seems the principal was yelling at them through a bull horn.  Not exactly likely to calm anyone down.  We have all been watching what happened to Haiti and none of us know when the next one is coming.  That is hard for an adult and worse for a child, especially one who it seems it having other problems.  People who come here need to have compassion for our children, not come here with a prejudiced attititude looking down on them. 

    I am not a Caymanian.  i’m an ex pat who has been here a long time. I’m married to a Caymanian and my son is Caymanian so I really do have a unique view point – in that I see what is happening from both sides of the fence.  Caymanians have no problem with people who come here, mix with them, don’t look down their nose at them, try to rip them off and  who treat them with respect.  I for one, am not going to stand by and watch anyone abuse my child, or anyone elses if I see something happen.

    So instead of covering this up, let’s bring it out in to the open, get to the truth, make sure ALL involved are held accountable for their actions, not just blame to child who already seems to be having enough problems.




    • Anonymous says:

      Sad to say but unforunately some people do not know the meaning of the word compassion.  I said the same thing a few days ago and I received more thumbs down than you would believe.  I have an 11 year old grandson who attends Leading Edge and he has told me several times about a teacher there who constantly calls students stupid and idiot (not him but other students).  Does anyone really expect something like that to earn a students respect ?  Years ago when my kids were in school we had teachers that truly cared about the students.  They are very few and far between now.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I am glad the government finally stepped up and gave the public the details of the incident at the school. Even though all details are not int his article the best way to make things better is to work with parents and keep them informed instead of hiding things.

    My nephew showed up at home hours after the quake. I was angry that he didn’t stay at school but he was told several students were told they could leave the compound. As I know how teenagers can be, I didn’t agree with this situation and grounded him for leaving without letting anyone know he left.

    I talked with him about what to do next time in this event. I think the government needs to make parents aware of the schools plans in these situations and tell them the policy.  This could help alleviate the situation that happened. These plans are things that can be added to the schools website… is there one?

    Government and parents working together is the only way for a better future for our children!


    • Anonymous says:

      you have to bear with Rollie, he has to wait to hear from Big Mac what he should say! The process takes a little longer than usual, but that is what we have to expect from life in a dictatorship.

      • Anonymous says:

        I actually thought Mr. Anglin spoke very candidly on the Rooster Talk Show this morning.  He was very articulate, stated his position clearly and strongly, yet remained polite throughout.  He also showed compassion for those on the other side of the situation.  I don’t see how hecould have done more.

    • Why me? says:

      YOURE asking US if YOUR child’s school has a website?!?!  Why don’t you know that for yourself.  Your post sounds very cookie cutter, very June Cleaver and very disillusioned.  I agree parents should brief their kids and schools should have preparedness plans etc BUT what happened at JGHS was a disgrace. These were not toddlers, these were teenagers on the cusp on entering society as adults.  If the kids are old enough to have cell phones, weaves, $100 sneakers and all the rest then they should be old enough to respect authority. 

      Grounding your kid is cool and all that but do you really think the fear of being grounded is going to stop him from leaving school the first opportunity he gets next time?  Ive never known a group of so many teens that need a collective smack.

      • Anonymous says:

        Agree 100% with this post!!!  I work with teens on a weekly basis and never in my life have I seen such complete and utter disregard for authority.  I believe the student who claims he was attacked was out of line and threatening- I have seen it many times. What I also have seen many times is parents (ususally mothers of young boys) making excuses for their children’s behavior and blaming everyone else for it.  All this does is set them up for failure in life when they enter the real world- they are not equipped to deal with issues.  They must be taught there is a consequence for every action they take.  Mothers, please cut the umbilical cords! Accept that your child will make mistakes and try some disciplining action instead of ganging up with the child against teachers, police, etc.  I find it hard to believe that those officers just jumped on top of this student for no apparent reason- I mean think about it, it makes no sense.  Whether they used too much force is arguable, as I understand he was threatening school officials with ply wood.  If this type of parenting continues,  things will only get worse in our society.

      • Anonymous says:

        Why me?: Just so you know I haven’t been able to get much information out of the school (let alone a website address) since I took my Caymanian nephew in off the street because his mother couldn’t care for him. I am not from this island and did not grow up here but I tell you what.. no other family member cared to take this child in and he was considered a throwaway. Amazing that in just two years he has gone from failing to a C average.

        For your information beating a teenager is not in everyone’s best interest. This child needs love and support as do many other children. Maybe you are the one who needs a collective smack!

        You can make whatever comment you want but our children see the way parents (including you) are talking negatively and disrespectfully about other adults… how do you think they are going to act.   JUST LIKE YOU! Think about it for a minute!

  5. Anonymous says:

    So Mark and Beloved Leader were off galavanting around the world – how many others were on play time on our dime? Is that why no one from government spoke up? Governor please take the gold cards away from these children and send them to the naughty corner.

  6. An Anonymous Teen says:

    What is wrong with these people. first there saying it’s 5.8 now it’s 5.9…..are they trying to make it sound bigger than it was or something???

    • Anonymous says:

       Initial indications were that it was a 5.8 earthquake.  But after all was said and done, the USGS scientists were able to gather and analyze all the data and determined that the earthquake was actually a 5.9 magnitude earthquake.


    • Anonymous says:

      It was corrected and confirmed as a 5.9. it was on the news