Rivers blames system for kids’ poor behaviour

| 30/04/2014

(CNS): The education minister says that BEST and other programmes set up to address some of the significant special needs plaguing government school students haven’t worked as well as hoped. As classsroom behaviour problems reach what some parents believe is a crisis point, Tara Rivers said the problem was the coordination of resources, leadership and accountability. In the face of a worsening situation in schools, she said her ministry is seeking to improve the system by setting clear expectations about how kids identified as having special needs or emotional and behavioural problems are helped and then holding leaders accountable.

Speaking on Cayman27’s The Panel with Tammi Sulliman on Tuesday evening, the ministersaid that the system is able to identify those students who have special needs but things are going wrong with regard to the implementation of therapeutic strategies.

With HSA statistics showing that in 2012 some 400 kids from the government schools population of almost 5,000 presented with some form of mental health problem, and given the serious lack of resources in mental health provision overall, it is even worse for children.

Rivers said that when students with severe issues are identified, the transition between therapeutic centre and the classroom is falling down. She said recent reviews and reports suggest there is a gap in the management systems with deficiencies in accountability. Despite being pressed by Sulliman, Rivers avoided detailing whether this was a case of education management passing the buck or people simply not doing their jobs.

Rivers said communication was an issue, but despite the gaps, her approach would not be a “knee jerk reaction”, as this was a systemic problem that did not start with the current government and would not end with it either. She said there was a need to establish who is responsible and who is accountable and while there has been a lot of emphasise on creating specialist resources, they have not be used properly and students are not being monitored. Rivers said education management was getting better at identifying those in need but it has been late and poor at intervening.

Pointing to the need for a behavioural support team, she said that would have budget implications but the minister said there had to be clear expectations communicated to all those involved and accountability for dealing with special needs students.

She also said that a survey had been sent to parents and teachers about school behaviour and that the ministry would be hosting a conference later this year on the issue as well as professional development for teachers. The minister said there are teachers that simply don’t know how to deal with the issues impacting some children and the emotional behaviour they display in the classroom as a result.

Rivers said the ministry was not looking to penalize teachers or school leaders but she said performance was driven by leadership and as the leaders say they need support, the ministry wanted to offer that via training and the proper coordination of resources.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I do not need training to deal with student behavior. I need more another adult in the classroom as support for the other 25 students when that 1 students decides to throw a chair at me. Also when I then apply the training to my students and restrain him/her as taught, who will have my back when his/ her parent goes off on me? Minister Rivers, you gonna defend me or wha?

  2. Anonymous says:

    I attend every PTA meeting for my children and it doesn't matter what school they attended, you could count perhaps 60 or 70 parents in attendance each month – when the students easily numbered 400 or more.   How can children thrive with that example?  If these parents don't even bother to attend a monthly PTA meeting, how vested can they be in raising their children?

  3. Anon says:

    May I just interject by saying there seems to be a point missing.

    So many posters boast about how 'back in the day' their parents/ elders would harshly discipline them. According to the recent Compass poll, a vast majority believe that corporal punishment and exclusion are necessary to remedy the problem of bad behaviour. Were not these people the same ones who raised these trouble makers today?

    I was beat as a child and I may even venture to say that I believe there are circumstances where a good slap might help. As a young person, I've completed my studies and am pursuing my masters. I stay out of trouble and am disciplined. However, it had very little to do with the approach my parents took to raising me in such a manner. If anything, whilst I was in middle school and highschool, I was absolutely defiant. I did not fear physical, verbal or psychological attacks like isolation and beatings because I had become USED to them. It was that stubborness which saved me and has brought me to where I am today. Other children I knew who grew up in a similar fashion did not fare as well and they struck out early in life.

    The primary difference were the options available to us due to our socio-economic status. Being from a well-to-do family, I went to excellent private schools. I was enrolled in just about every single extra-curricular activity. My parents eventually split, but both could afford to give us such a life. My excellence in study, sport, and art made me appealling to schools abroad. Better yet, I could afford to leave. Those I knew who ended up going down a different path often had the exact opposite. Their single mother had to work very hard to give them an education they could hardly afford. Nevermind paying for after school activities or care. Where I am still learning to simply interact with other people appropriately, they met their friends and peers who, often times just like them, were left to their own devices. They lacked a certain level of guidance and support outside of the home I was able to afford.

    I had the pleasure of volunteering at Clifton Hunter. Yes, some of the kids seem disinterested and irritable. Some rude. It's when you actually sit downand TALK to them like human beings and try to understand their individual needs, wants and concerns that you get to truly appreciate how BRILLIANT many of them are. The chidlren in the government school system, for the most part, lack the cultural exposure that those of us who went through the private school system got. Yet, they're often times much stronger. They voice their opinions rather than parroting what they've been told to. I am not dismissing private school children- I was one of them and I understand that we go through our own personal trials and issues. However, we cannot deny that we have been, for the most part, very privileged in a material sense. That makes a WORLD of a difference.

    Rather than passing blame and trying to repeat the same practices which probbaly got us here in the first place, the ministry and others involved in youth education and care need to identify their actual skills and interests. Set boundaries, of course, but treat them with some kind of respect. You can't demand respect if you don't give it. We want to take pictures and pat ourselves on the back for their achievements, but when they disappoint us, we are quick to throw them under the bus. We use them to validate our own selfishness. Any child would be frustrated by that. No, you won't be able to help ALL of them, but it will help a damn lot more than now.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Tara: why waste time investigating and apportioning blame that doesn't resolve the issues – you are the Education Minister and are empowered to initiate early screening for special needs and form constructive education policy for decades to come.  Move with purpose – this is why voters put you in that seat.

    • And Another Ting says:

      I hate to do this but it is absolutely necessary. Mr. Premier you need to reshuffle your cabinet sah. Our children, the future citizens and their patents and indeed many of the Cayman Islands community demand it. Need I say more?

    • Anonymous says:

      Excellent suggestion. Let's move on a sort this out before another teacher gets punched in the face and kicked in the face and stomach. Investigate (using input from these same at risk teachers) and remove the threat. It ain't rocket science, Tara, and it sure as heck doesn't need a committee.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Anyone else noted that when it's good news about our schools the education ministry is all over it with photo ops and big "feel good" grins galore? But when it's bad news it's like "This has nothing to do with us". Please pardon my French, but can we henceforth drop this totally bogus PR/BS and concentrate on the education of our children?

  6. SKEPTICAL says:

    Much of the problem results from the breakdown of discipline at home. Caymanians of my generation, as was my case in the UK , wouldn't have considered talking back to, let alone assaulting, a teacher.  Whatever about being caned, or put on detention – far worse awaited you when you got home.

  7. Cayman Mama says:

    I had high hopes for Tara, even though I don't live in West Bay and couldn't vote for her.  But like many others, I am very disappointed in her "blame someone else" philosophy.

  8. Travolta says:

    The "System" is an easy target and doesn't directly shoot back. How about some easy math; bad parenting = bad kids & bad kids = even worse adults.

    However there maybe some merit to Rivers' statement in that the current system has a significant percentage of bad adults in its employ which adds to the vicious cyle the bad kids enter.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Dont blame the System Minister. The problem starts at home!!!!

  10. "Expat" says:

    THIS ELEPHANT HAS BEEN IN THE SMALL ROOM A VERY LONG TIME! If the Ministry of Education had been listening to the teachers a long time ago, this elephant would have been smelt, let alone seen. They have been crying out for help for ages, so who is it that was not listening, the principals or the Min of Ed senior officers? Here is where we need some retrospective "accountability" since we seem to like that word so much these days.

    First, parenting is very lacking in far too many "homes" in Cayman, single parents, alcohol, drugs, employment issues, societal break down etc, all part of the cocktail.

    There has been a total failure to diagnosethe special needs of many children until it has been too late, by which time they have been head on with the poor teachers and the system.

    These disruptive special needs students are all lumped into the same classrooms with children who might want to learn, and the nett result is very poor classroom conduct and little learning, AND, totally exasperated and frustrated teachers who all too often get the blame from parents who would conveniently wash their hands of part of the blame. No one has been listening to these poor teachers for ages.

    The background of poor parental supervision at home after school is a serious issue. Just drive through your neighbourhood after dark, and see how many kids are finding entertainment on the streets or in the bushes until ungodly hours of the night.

    Mr. Michael Myles ofthe Min of Ed has done very valuable research which at last quantified the extent of the special needs crisis, and is now trying to get something done, but the resources at his disposal are totally inadequate. One of the strategies is the organization of after school activities for these kids, as an alternative to what I just mentioned, but the root of this crisis really lies in parenting problems, dysfunctional homes, and the late diagnosis of the special needs cases. Then there is the school problem of trying to rescue these kids far too late in the game. Presently, it's almost an impossible task unless there is a major overhaul of the system from top to bottom.

    It is infair to blame teachers at this stage, so cut that out. The senior officers of the Min of Ed and other policy makers who have played deaf to the teachers cries for help for years are the ones who need to be held "accountable" (here we go again).

    This reminds me of a certain former Leader of  Govt. Business who for years stated that "We do not have a gang problem in Cayman." Well guess what, the gangs actually started in the schools!! That's something serious to think about. Have a good day, and think about what you as a parent can do to help with this crisis.


    • Anonymous says:

      The politicians spent too much time and money trying to get votes by giving expat teachers status and increase in salary, much more attractive than they have in their native countries.

      The teachers who complaiend were the few Caymanian teachers who cared and were willing to stand up and share the problem but the senior Caymanian leaders apparently felt THEIR job security was more important than actually ensuring the systemt worked.

    • Anonymous says:

      Teachers weren't blamed so cut that out! The issue of lack of accountability was discussed at all levels, including the Ministry and Education Department.

    • And Another Ting says:

      Now I know ya na no expat if you know about that statement. Ya been here almost ad long asClatBella cow.

  11. Anonymous says:

    How is it that only now we have the government admit that 10% of students are labeled as special needs?

    This is exactly want angered me so about the new schools.  You can have the best physcal plant in existance but out of control students will disrupt the learning process.

    To have a 1 year old thug asault a teacher is unacceptable. When these problem kids are iidentified go to ther home and speak with the parents face to face and find out what is the problem.

    Get on this Tara, the honeymoon is over.

    • Anonymous says:

      Special Needs doesn't mean behavior problems.  Special needs include children in wheelchairs, hearing impaired, Autism, Down Syndrome, ADHD, ADDetc.  These 

  12. And Another Ting says:

    SorrybMinisyer Rivers, your theory sucks. It is not the school system that has to be accountable for a child's discipline, hello it's the parents. The children come to school with their bad behavior and home issues. If there is evaluation and tracking of kids behavior from primary then any issues can be dealt clinically which assists the child and equally as important the parent(s). We have got to stop sweeping the problem one side if you don't trat the problem at the roots, then it will spread within the school system and become pandemic.

    for those causing the problems within the system at present, you need help, external professional  help to train teachers , parents and others to assist the children.nthis is bigger than you think, Minister Rivers so dont try small solutions. The prayers of the nation are needed .

  13. Anonymous says:

    Put the strap back into schools and see how we'll they will behave.  Any child who is disruptive and will not take instructions from a teacher, should be removed from the classroom.  We have too many problem children, who are allowed by the system to infiltrate or classrooms.  Too many have been allowed into  our schools, who we have no knowledge of their backgrounds.  Close the gap, stop the open IMMIGRATION policy.  What  is not ours, leave it where it was.  Stop importing problems and poverty. 

  14. Anonymous says:

    One of the root causes of school problems is the fact that many of the "problem" children were unwanted; born to mothers who continued to consume drugs (legal and illegal) and eat a sub-standard diet while pregnant. Pre-natal abuse and post-natal neglect produces babies with both mental and physical disabilities that lead to behavioral disabilities as they grow.



    – Make age appropriate and explicit birth control education available to all children.

    – Make birth control tools readily available at little or no cost.

    – Remove the negative stigma that surrounds birth control for single persons.

    – Educate women about the pre-natal care that they owe their unborn child.

    – Educate women about the realities of raising a child for all 21 years and beyond.

    – Prepare women for the lies men tell when the men want irresponsible sex.


    This is not a quick fix. It will start to bear fruit in the next generations.


    Changing the education "system" is not a fix, it is a band-aid on a much deeper cultural problem.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Not so fast, Tara. The ministry, just like the captain on a ship, is ultmately responsible for everthing that does and does not happen in our schools. It is their responsibility to ensure that the necessary programmes are in place and being properly implemented. If this is not the case the ministry is at fault, plain and simple. This sounds very much like the upper management (i.e. the ministry managers) trying to duck their responsibilities and accountabilities and attempting to blame those who manage the schools, which is ludicrous. The ministry's role is to manage those who manage the schools. If there are deficiencies in the management of the schools it is because of deficiences in the ministry. So let's stop beating around the bush here and get the management at the top sorted out before another teacher is punched in the face and kicked as he/she lies on the ground, okay? Time for the ministry to face up to its responsibilities and the consequences of its failings.

    • Anonymous says:

      If you watch the interview for yourself you will see that the issue of accountablility was not limited to the schools, but did in fact include the Miniistry and Department of Education.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Tara girl you might have to a University and I to 6 form,but I dont think that you have the right answer for these kids behaviour. Just check out most of the children personally and they are coming from broken homes, single parents, and worst yet all kind of helpers raising them. I firmly believe that children from a very tender age can be what you put into them. Then the children in Cayman now a day is being raised just like some of our neighbours. Daddy in New York, Mama in Miami and the child is being taken care of by a helper or if they are lucky their poor old Granny.

    • Anonymous says:

      What does the neighbour have to do with you raising your child?  Are you going to blame the neighbour now for your parrental skills?  If your kid is poorly raise the onus is on you and your family to do better not the neighbours!!!

  17. Anonymous says:

    The survey was not sent to teachers until 3:46 p.m. on Tuesday evening, at which point, most teachers would have logged out of their email for the day. It was not sent to principals, and it was left up to the members of the Teacher Forum to forward to their colleagues.

  18. Anonymous says:

    All recent statistics show fatherless children are the most affected with behavior issues. Maybe it should be BOTH parents have welfare responsibility of their minors. Let them all be mandatory to have to go their games, awards, pta’s, reporting sessions, counciling….let them each be held accountable. Too many single stressed moms and too many worthless baby making fathers. It ain’t the child’s fault for having this aggression, blame lack of love and family. Anyone who supports absentee parents, be it mama, papa, teetee, bobo, sweetie, or anybody else, then they are all guilty of condoning this generations rapidly increasing demise. Would never have seen this lack of caring even 30 years ago. Now court room full daily with child support cases. Bottom line is it should be……Family first.

  19. Fred the Piemaker says:

    You are kidding right?  Its not the parents fault, its the teachers because they don't understand the "special needs" some children have?  Sorry, but I am struggling to believe that nearly 10% of the entire school population has special needs.  More like 9% of the kids are not taught right from wrong by their parents or how to behave properly, but we couldnt possibly blame the voting parents so lets dump on the teachers.  

  20. Anonymous says:

    River's blames….. This is getting old now.


  21. Benharper says:

    She has already figured it out smart women! The Ministry, Dept. Of Education, Admin staff and teachers are not doing their job as most of them are poorly qualified. You pay peanuts… You get monkeys!  Time to clean house Ms Tara, the positive results in improved education performancewill get you re-elected by the majority of electors and those you kicked to the curb will assume their appropriate low level positions in the work force.


  22. Anonymous says:

    Sounds good Ms. Rivers.

    Remember, ALL must be held acountable. i.e Parents first, teachers, school leaders, representatives from the ministry and lastly but most importantly, students MUST be held accountable for their actions.

    Everyone at this point must get involved if we are to see positive results in the future.

    Also, we need to seperate children with learning disabilities and disorders from the others. We must do our best to cater to all childrens' needs not just a few.

    Goodluck Ms. Rivers, i do believe your hands are quite full at this point; steady on.


  23. Anonymous says:

    So a whole lot of talk and nothing being done…

  24. Anonymous says:

    Well, the longer she goes without holding anyone accountable, the more likely it will be her that ultimately is.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Oh stop right here….I want you Tara Rivers to first go into all government schools and take a look at the uniforms…..yep the uniforms. I am sure you will find at least 70% of uniforms worn by the boys you can put three boys in them, pants hanging down their a…, hems not done, shirts to big….so this is where the parents fail.  The schools should have told the parents your kid comes to school looking like a thug he will be sent home…full stop!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      I'm gettinga bit puzzled over this uniform thing. I thought Alden had sorted it out years ago. Maybe Tara should ask him for advice. No, on second thoughts that'd probably be a monumental wast of her time!

  26. Anonymous says:

    i am no Expert but from a parent who has raised, guided and educated my children, who are now professionals in the community I have a few comments.

    1. I think too many children are mal-nurished  and cannot concentrate long enough to settle down and apply themselves in school.  i realise that some parents are finding it difficult to properly feed their children but  if they would take whatever money they have for food and go buy some oatmeal or cornmeal, make their children a good pot of porridge in the mornings instead of going to the fast food on their way to school the children would be more settled. Stop buying soft drinks for your kids – it makes them hyper, then they cannnot consentrate and these are the one who usually upsets the class rooms.

    2. Babies are having and raising babies.  Some of the parents had their children long before they were physically and mentally ready for parenting. Perhaps  it is too late for your offspring now but parents please implore your youngsters to aim higher than becoming a baby mother/father before they can take care of themselves.

    3. Perhaps some of these  mental problems have manisfested because of drug use(including marijuana and alcohol )  by the parents.  Drugs messes up their cognitive and behavioural capabillities and it sure can be passed from mother/father to the child at conception.

    I know that there are some very wonderful parents in this society, but there are far two many who does not care about their children's welfare. They won't show up to a Reporting Session, or PTA meeting if their lives depened on it.  Well let me add, their lives might not depend on it , but their children's lives do. Parents it is you who have to hold the Government and the teachers accountable for your kids education, but remember you are your kids first line of defence.  You need to take your reponsibility serious in rearing your children , not just as another child but as a responsible adult eventually.  I remember having to go to school some days without lunch money, but I sure had a good bowl of porridge before I left and there was dinner in the evenings on my return home.



  27. Anonymous says:

    Bring back the Strap!! or the Paddle!


    In the real world, once they graduate or get expelled, there is no one standing by to identify what your issues are and see if talking about them can help when they get into real trouble – there is only a right handed fist or prison.


    the sooner they learn that their bad behavior will only get them swift harsh punishment, the better off society will be.


    I got strapped once in Middle School for disrupting class, you can bet I never did it again.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Why not simply remove the kids with known mental health/ severe behavioural issues from mainstream schools and educate and treat them in a specialist unit. This is how it was in the past and it worked until someone had the bright idea to change it.  Investigate it CNS – the "inclusive" policy of our educators is destroying ALL of the kids. The alternative is to have fully manned and trained specialist units in each school to deal with certain problem kids rather than shuttling them from school to school when they get to difficult to deal with.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I blame the students. Put some police officers in the high schools.

  30. Anonymous says:

    I didn't watch the show, but did she speak on anything to hold the parents accountable as well.  While I agree that the teachers/leaders must be held accountable, they can do as much as they would like and gather as much information, if the parents are not on board there will be very litte if any change.

    Some parents need to be mandated to take parenting classes and enroll in services geared to dealing with their issues.  Once certain issues are dealt with, chances are there will be an improvement.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, she did mention that parents and students must be held accountable as well, and that the plan being rolled out includes that aspect too.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Sorry, I am totally confused now? So a disruptive child is now classified as a special needs child?

    Either, or – I suggest the ministry starts holding the parents responsible for the behavior of their children.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Although the minister states, "There are teachers that simply don’t know how to deal with the issues impacting some children and the emotional behaviour they display in the classroom as a result." as if it is the fault of the teachers. Many of the students with serious behavioural issues would not be taught in a regular classroom any way (at least in other developed nations). They would be with people specifically trained to deal with those issues. The problem is not identifying the students, for example, when they stab (with a pencil) or threaten tokill other students, we know there is an issue. But there is no support for the identified students, or the classroom teacher dealing with the extreme behaviour.

  33. Anonymous says:

    tara rivers….the minister of waffle and management speak sound bites………….

  34. C'mon Now! says:

    Yes it is obvious that a teacher trying to discipline an unruly child within the constraints of what passes for classroom and school management in Cayman, might not know how to deal with the issue of the student punching them in the face and then kicking them while they are down.  This is assualt and the student shoudl be in the hands of the RCIP after this.


  35. Anonymous says:

    Rivers, I BLAME YOU!!! you can't even show up to your job to vote. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Why must people always make this a personal attack on Minister Rivers? Watch the interveiw for yourself and stop with the Minister bashing. Enough already!