Jamaica: Mother of bullied student told to find another school

Glenmuir Prep School

(Jamaica Gleaner) Days head of the new school term, a Clarendon mother is fuming that the Glenmuir Prep School has asked her to withdraw her son, who she claims has been the victim of bullying for more than a year.

Juliet Johnson-Clarke wrote a letter to the school board’s chairperson Winsome Singh in October, 2018 detailing the ordeal of her seven-year-old son.

She said he had been suffering at the hands of a bully since he was enrolled at the May Pen-based preparatory school in September 2017.

No Action

According to Johnson-Clarke, since his enrolment, she has visited the school no fewer than twice per week to complain to the principal that her child was being bullied.

She further claims that on each visit, the principal would reiterate that he is dealing with the matter. 

However, Johnson-Clarke says the bullying continued leading her son to regress both in academics and socially.

Abuse

She claims that her child, who has been potty-trained since the age of three, suddenly started wetting his bed again and began displaying unusual behaviours, leading her to hire professional help for him.

The distraught mother said it was recommended that her son keeps a journal, where he reported that he was terrified of his alleged abuser and made an entry stating: “He cunks (sic) me in my head, grabs my shoulders and makes them hurt… pushes me and make me fall on the floor. I hit my arm in the auditorium. He kicks me and troubles me. He makes me feel sad and angry.”

Exasperated by the lack of action by the school, Johnson-Clarke, who is an attorney-at-law, wrote another letter to the institution in November 2018, in which she threatened legal action against the school on the grounds of negligence.

‘Withdraw your child’

In response to the threat, the board wrote to Johnson-Clarke asking that she withdraws her child.

“In the interest/preservation of our school’s name, we recommend that you withdraw your child at the start of the new term,” said a board spokesperson in a letter dated December 20, 2018 letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Gleaner.

“This is to safeguard you and your child from undue stress and anxiety,”  the board spokesperson continued acknowledging a claim in Johnson-Clarke’s October letter that the incidents of bullying seemed to have been reducing.

The board chairperson could not be reached by The Gleaner for further comment as calls to her cellphone were not successful.

Meanwhile, a representative of the school declined to speak on the matter advising also that principal Andre Riley would not be available until Monday.

Pointing out that the school was closed for the Christmas break, Johnson-Clarke said she only received the board’s letter on Thursday, January 3, 2019, when she visited the school.

“I see it as punitive because they don’t have a legal reason to withdraw my child. I am not the only parent who has a problem with this child bullying their children as a lot of parents have confided in me that they spoke to the principal about him,” Johnson-Clarke claimed.

What next?

The Clarendon mother said she contacted the school’s principal to discuss the issue, and, according to her, he indicated that he was aware of the board’s recommendation but had no knowledge of the contents of the letter.

According to the mother, the conversation with the principal was brief as he indicated that he was preoccupied.

“What am I to tell my son on Monday why he is not going to school?” the mother asked, stating that she did not want to remove her son as he was making strides at the school and had gained valuable friendships.

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