The Mae’s Schools, following a meeting with the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) yesterday, has agreed to offer an apology to the nine-year-old student who was allegedly discriminated against for the Indigenous attire he wore to a recent culture day activity, and to collaborate to host sensitisation sessions.
A separate meeting involving officials from the Education, Social Cohesion and Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs ministries was also reportedly held with the Mae’s Schools yesterday.
Michael McGarrell, an APA member, told Stabroek News last evening that the school had met with the organisation yesterday afternoon, during what he described as being a “fruitful” discussion.
Also present at the meeting were the child’s parents, Karen Small and Jason Chacon, as well as Natasha Smith, one of the organisers of the protests following the incident. They had been invited to the discussion by the APA.
Representing the APA were Executive Director Jean La Rose, Public Relations Officer Nicholas Peters and McGarrell. On the side of the school’s administration were administrator Stacey French and Lucinda McCurdy.
McGarrell posited that the meeting was a step in the right direction, and stated that while some may say there is a need for more to be done, baby steps will also lead to progress.
But Small noted last evening that the invitation to the meeting had not come from the school itself, but that the meeting was actually one scheduled to occur between the institution and the organisation. Asked if the school had offered her and Chacon an apology, she stated no.
McGarrell had noted that since the incident, the school had not reached out to the parents in any way, and related that yesterday was the first time the two parties had come face-to-face since the issue arose. He explained that the APA made the move to bring them together so that they could share their sides of the story, sift through the facts of the matter and identify the issues.
The school has reportedly expressed willingness to offer a public apology to the student and his parents, McGarrell said, after the APA pointed out that the issue is much broader than just the boy and his parents, but that it affected a wide cross-section of people. He opined that the incident was a teachable moment for all Guyanese to consider the impact of the things they do and say.
Mae’s has also reportedly agreed to facilitate awareness sessions for its staff and students during this month, but those dates are still to be finalized.
The Ministries of Education, Social Cohesion and Indigenous Peoples Affairs also met with the management of the Mae’s Schools yesterday.
According to Minister of Social Cohesion, Dr George Norton, the next step would be to have those same stakeholders meet with the parents and supporters of the young student, who has been at the centre of the controversy. He indicated that details on the outcome of those meetings would be forthcoming.
On May 25th, Small made a Facebook post relating that her nine-year-old son had not been allowed to enter his school fully dressed in his Indigenous wear and that staff, including the security guard, teachers, and the headmistress had stated that his attire was inappropriate.
The school, in response, denied that any staff had been engaged on the matter, and said the student had “settled into his classes without incident.” Further, it implied that the child had not adhered to the required mode of dress, as his class reportedly had to portray the Portuguese culture, and students were reportedly told to wear underclothes to prevent exposure.
The school claimed that this was done in an oral brief leading up to the activity, despite the fact that it had sent out letters to the parents specifying that “pupils will be allowed to dress in their cultural wear, depicting an ethnic group of their choice….” and nothing else.