The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – The Blackboard Jungle

For all the oral public discourse, column inches, union sabre rattling, legal disputation, child advocacy, and official pleas for due process to take its course that it might have engendered in recent days, there has been, to date, no decisive confirmation of precisely what happened in the now notorious incident of the alleged battery of a member of the teaching staff by a pupil at Ellerslie School. In consequence, much of what has passed for informed commentary so far is in fact little more than subjective conjecture on the part of the respective asserters.

Of course, there are more than a few for whom the mere identities of the parties suffice to settle the matter beyond reasonable doubt. As far as these individuals are concerned, the physical integrity of a teacher at his or her workplace is inviolable under any circumstance and the notion that there could ever be any justification for a pupil battering a teacher plainly defies rational thought.

This thesis certainly held true in my days at Wesley Hall Primary School. In spite of their taunting threats of legally sanctioned violence by some teachers , the idea of any boy reacting in kind, either in word or by deed, would have amounted to unpardonable heresy. Hence when Mr Davis solemnly promised to “rip out your balls wid a ripping iron…” (referring to the appearance of his leather strap -in those days an indispensable part of the teacher’s pedagogical armoury-), or when our beloved Mr King warned that his “Joe Goat” would “rip up your coat”, it would not have been the done thing to have our parents pursue actions for the torts of assault or the infliction of emotional distress; to respond with our own threats; or to launch a preemptive physical attack on either of them. At my secondary school, the idea of physical retaliation never crossed our minds.

These are different times, however, and a more enlightened society now mostly abhors the notion that violence in the form of corporal punishment is the cure-all for seeming intellectual laziness that may be owed rather to dyslexia, dyscalculia, or some other inherent inability to cope; or even for misbehaviour that might be a result of boredom, disinterest or distraction. Hence, the lobby for the abolition of this form of punishment is growing, a phenomenon that might serve significantly to alienate those who are fearful of leaving the certainty, though dubious utility, of the hoary shores of the old order of things.

An incident such as the one currently alleged at Ellerslie will therefore be used by them either as an argument to justify positively the preservation of the old disciplinary regime, warts and all –See what its removal brings? – or to gainsay the new dispensation as being far too permissive of juvenile anomie- a good flogging.

My views on this matter are too well known to bear repetition, but my central point on the Ellerslie incident is that it has brought to the national consciousness, at least for the first time that I can recall, that violence against teachers in schools in schools may be a current local phenomenon. Of course, from what I have stated earlier, I am not prepared to comment on that particular incident since I am not seized of the facts.

Not that this has [not] proved a hindrance to some who have not been shy to express their views on the matter in public. Nonetheless, my training compels me to believe that the truth, so far as this is discernible on earth, will be arrived at only after sworn testimony from, and cross-examination of, at least both of the parties, the relevant experts, and any eyewitnesses to the incident.

In this light, it is difficult to understand the stance of the teachers’ unions that, without the benefit of such an exercise, nevertheless demand the imposition of the ultimate sanction of expulsion on the alleged offender. They seek to justify this call -akin to that of the spokesmen for the posses in old Westerns that would earnestly advise the captured villain that he would be given “a fair trial” before they hanged him-, on regulation 29 (3)(b) of the Education Regulations 1982.

However, it is submitted that this conclusion may only be arrived after the most cursory and alarmingly inadequate reading of the provision. There is an instruction usually given to all students of law that a provision and a piece of legislation should be read in their entirety if one is to garner the true meaning.

This appears not to have been adhered to in the present case, because while it is true that the sub-sub-regulation does indeed provide expressly –“(b) expel the pupil from school”, this is one only of the two recourses that “may” be available, after an inquiry, to the Board or Committee that has been immediately notified by the principal of the suspension of a pupil by the principal “where any pupil of the of a public school commits any act that causes injury to a teacher or another pupil in the school or where his (or her) conduct is such that his (or her) presence in the school is likely to have a detrimental effect on the discipline of the other pupils of the school…” [Emphasis added].

A close reading of the regulation should have revealed that the principal’s initial suspension of the pupil is exclusively within the discretion of the principal; on such suspension, its immediate notification to the Board or Committee is mandatory; the holding of an inquiry by the Committee is discretionary; and its recourse of further suspension or expulsion on its part is also discretionary.

However, any action that is based on discretion in these circumstances is subject to the requirements of fairness and natural justice. As a result, the preliminary suspension of the pupil by the principal should not occur in the absence of a fair investigation and a procedurally fair determination of the facts of the matter; the Board or Committee should not exact either of the alternative sanctions expressly provided for unless it chooses to hold the inquiry and does so in a fair manner in accordance with the tenets of natural justice.

At this stage, therefore, calls for the expulsion of the pupil involved are arguably both legally premature and much exaggerated.

To be continued…


94 Comments on “The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – The Blackboard Jungle”

  1. Well Well & Consequences May 1, 2016 at 4:13 PM #

    Had to fix the errors in this one…

    ” not knowing children lived what they learned….now look at the results Fruendel, Carrington, Parris and called it discipline, although Parris had the good sense to koww that he did not have to go to HC etc to rob the geniuses, or use them….name any crook you know and it applies, I even forgot yardfolw AC, she must have been beaten every minute, she still dont know which way is up…lol.


  2. de pedantic Dribbler May 1, 2016 at 5:34 PM #

    Oh lawd, Mr Bush Tea. Many years apart my old man described Clive Lloyd and then Viv Rchards as swipers. The second time he put up his hand to forestall my riposte. And just smiled. He fully appreciated their batsmanship ability. Just didn’t like their style having been weened on Everton Weeks, Worrel and that level of silky smoothness.

    You just like that. The folks – even me – can’t often appreciate your style. But bat for my life yah can. I will still cuss yah when I survive but I want you to bat. It’s dem regular cross-hauls and hoicks over de top which so overpower the sweet cover drives and sublime hooking off the cap-peak that causes de problems. LOLL.

    Now. I never said that you want nah body children to get flogged…but I clearly heard de point that the ability to instill discipline, corporal or otherwise, should be part of the tool kit of the school principal.

    I further understand you to be saying that it is from an abiding desire to help the youth develop that every serious Bajan teacher even contemplates flogging. And as I know from talking to my teacher relatives it is a last step along a path which involved much long talk and other guidance.

    Thus, based on what I understand of your comments and know it is distressing that folks equate teachers who use flogging as an extension of their curmudgeon personality with those who flog to instill some discipline and indeed maintain order, to echo Ping Pong.

    It’s a bit of a stretch but…you can’t equate the teacher who perverts youthful minds with sexual relations to the teacher who genuinely falls for an older student and pursues him/her after school leading to a relationship or a marriage. Unless you look at it with the correct understanding they both will appear heinous!

    Anyhow Mr Bush Tea…great to bat wid you today. Tomorrow or another day back on opposing team …fah sure…loll!

    A few other agreements —- “…You was bright from the get go…” — Tru dat he was, but still validates Jeff’s point of late blooming.

    —- “Skippa, all like now Peter W pissing he-self because he did not pass for HC” — Late blooming thing again. That is a problem we face dat iffin you din go to HC, QC etc you is basically poor dog meat. Nonsense of course but still to dis day it’s a nuisance pain for some.

    And what must be your ‘piece de resistence’: “…and why would a serious teacher waste his time cutting a white boy’s ass? did such students need to apply themselves to succeed?…”

    Very perceptive, dat. Very. But today de ‘cut ass’ (read discipline) is an affront and no longer de ‘tough love’ that was used to save many ‘hard-ears’ intelligent Black boys. I wonder (suspect zero) how many White students from Bajan public schools can speak to the story of getting a cut-ass at school and then getting one at home too from their parents …To your point there was a totally different dynamic about why a flogging was applied.

    So Mr Blogmaster you are correct that these debates always devolve to a absolutely misguided distillation of ‘flogging or not’ and misses the point. Mr Bushie has said it well that we are much the poorer for strong, intense discipline. It has NOTHING per se to do with flogging.

    So I remain confused why based on the HC and other high-end vintage of de many bloggers here that there is still dis great misunderstanding…I is poor dog meat as described above but it seems clear to me. Oh lawd.


  3. de pedantic Dribbler May 1, 2016 at 5:38 PM #

    Correction, that should read: “Now, I never HEARD IT said that you want nah body children to get flogged”


  4. Observing May 1, 2016 at 5:53 PM #

    The Union’s premature mouthings on the Ellerslie issue have more to do with 1. Retaining, gaining or stealing Secondary School members and 2. Gaining leverage in the battles they are losing or have lost.

    The BUT does not support BSTU on the SBA issue. The BSTU does not support BUT on this Minister meeting issue. They both want to be the “leading” voices on violence and other issues. The public suffers as a result.

    He who shouts loudest is heard first, sometimes unfortunately so for those who hear.

    Just observing


  5. Jeff Cumberbatch May 1, 2016 at 6:04 PM #

    @Observing -As lawyers say, I am instructed!


  6. Simple Simon May 1, 2016 at 10:49 PM #

    I can’t really comment, since I was spanked only once in school, by a principal whom the children alleged had only one stone. We called him “One-Stone” so yes I suppose that he had grave emotional problems as a result of the “One-Stone” thing, and yes I suppose that more than 50 years on I should forgive him, especially as he is long dead.


  7. Simple Simon May 1, 2016 at 10:53 PM #

    @Bush Tea May 1, 2016 at 7:44 AM “Bushie can just picture Jeff driving a ZR down Holders Hill with Simple Simon in the back cussing his donkey for going too fast.”

    No, no, no. I would cuss his donkey for going too SLOW.


  8. Donna May 1, 2016 at 11:54 PM #

    Silly Bushie,

    The politicians of which you speak grew up in the age of licks. Heck, some of them went to school with me and some of them my father taught so I could tell you. The teachers used to walk around with sticks and straps and did not hesitate to use them. But you never let the facts deter you when making a point so…..

    Now, I never read my son fairy tales because I didn’t want him to grow up stupid. There are ways to make children aware of the harsh realities of life without giving them a deliberate foretaste of the abuse. That is if you are creative enough. By the way, I have found that children who were for the most part happy in their childhood are more able to deal with life as an adult. Some studies suggest that stress has a cumulative affect and one’s ability to tolerate stress may decrease over time (due to the effects on the brain of some hormone or the other). So that a child who experiences excessive stress will be LESS able to handle it as an adult.

    But what do I know? My name isn’t Bushie.


  9. Donna May 1, 2016 at 11:57 PM #

    To be specific, my father taught Froon. And he just recently told me that he favoured YOUR methods. So really, you have NO POINT!


  10. Simple Simon May 1, 2016 at 11:58 PM #

    @Donna May 1, 2016 at 11:54 PM “Now, I never read my son fairy tales…”

    That is a great pity


  11. Donna May 2, 2016 at 12:16 AM #

    I read him other much better stories.


  12. Donna May 2, 2016 at 12:17 AM #

    Almost forgot! Great column, Jeff.


  13. Well Well & Consequences May 2, 2016 at 4:41 AM #

    Lol….the Bushman ya see the results of all those beatings on students now playing out in Parliament. .Froondel, Sinckler, Jones, Carrington, McClean, Lowe, Lashley. .etc, on the yardfowl side AC, etc, yet you still call for more beatingnof students, still calling it discipline, to create a more toxic environment for taxpayers, more punishment for the people….. why.

    Did I mention Leroy Parris….makes all the HC, QC, Combermere “geniuses” who are politicians look like 2 penny crooks, while robbing all the 98% literate population their life savings and he did not have to attend any of those high schools to do so, with a smile.

    Not only do you not read fairytales to children, there are books with more realistic themes, but you do not feed them santa claus and the stork fairytales either. Teach children reality and they will know what to expect, will be able to function within reality.

    Mold and shape them while they are young, starting at 2, when they are stringing words together and starting to use their brains against you, the parent…not at 10, the year before the stupid, insipid common entrance test. There are more than enough books on childrearing for guidance, for those who actually read.


  14. TheGazer May 2, 2016 at 6:03 PM #

    As I was leaving yesterday, I noticed that we were beginning a discussion about ‘discipline’ and ‘floggings’.

    The super rich in Barbados are not foolish. They have learned to divide themselves into two groups and thus ensure their interests are always represented having the two halves support a different group. Regardless of which of the two parties is in power, the needs of the super rich are addressed.

    I saw one ‘fool’ solving the problems of racism by insisting there is one race and therefore there is no such things as racism.

    Next, they were some who tried to point out that some of us missed the distinction between discipline and punishment. Let me state that a mother whose son dies as ‘collateral damage’ feel the same pain as a mother whose son was the target.

    The “brass bowls” are not foolish. And if you use a five-dollar world or make full use of your thesaurus, they are going to translate it to their two-dollar world. So talk of instilling discipline and maintaining order ,means only that you are “cussing” and want to give the ghetto man’s son a cut ass.

    You may call it bovine excrement, but the ghetto man and his lady call it BS. It is a tale of two dictionaries.

    And guess what… as bad as things are and as crooked as some people are, the small words man and his lady are not foolish and the expected landslide never materialized and instead there could be a three peat.

    I am always telling my son “People are much smarter than you give them credit for”.


  15. TheGazer May 2, 2016 at 6:13 PM #

    *by having each of the two halves


  16. Bush Tea May 2, 2016 at 7:16 PM #

    Your father thought Froon????
    Shiite … that explains everything….
    Including you.


  17. Donna May 3, 2016 at 8:11 PM #

    Wrong again, Bushie!

    My father taught Froon using YOUR methods. He never used them on me. Sooooooo……


  18. Donna May 3, 2016 at 11:22 PM #

    But wait, Bushie though – you insulting my father now? Has he insulted you? Stick to insulting me. You sounding like the little children at school- “ya mudder!”


  19. David May 4, 2016 at 9:03 PM #

    Here we go ,again.

    Mum wants action against teacher


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