From the Courts
March 9, 2018
Enraged mom ends up before court after slapping student

The mother of a student of the Intermediate High School may not have landed before the court had she obeyed school policy when she went to the school to complain that her son had been bullied.

This is the opinion of the school’s principal, Elspeth Latchman, who described the situation as unfortunate.

“This is such an unfortunate situation… What happened on the 28th of February was created by [the student] and his mother.”

The mother in question, Teddi Bernard, appeared before the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court on March 2, charged with assault, occasioning actual bodily harm to a student of the school on February 28.

Her son is a 14-year-old student of the school, and after pleading guilty to the offence, Bernard launched into an explanation for her actions on that day.

She told the court that she met her son outside of the school compound that day crying, and he explained that there had been a dispute between him and another boy, wherein the boy had asked for a dollar. She alleged that the boys in the class also take his books and his bag and throw them into the garbage.

“I’ll be honest, I was angry and I was getting fed up,” the mother admitted, saying that she walked into the school and asked the other student, the complainant, who was alleged to have bullied her son, as to why he did it.

“He was pushing up his hand in my face,” she said, which caused her to slap him.

After this she said she “moved the chair” and ran into the principal’s office and, “I go to the principal office; she tell me I will be lock up.

“I’m sorry for what I did,” she said she told the principal, but told the court, “I was just enraged and angry how every time I come, I never get no satisfaction for my situation.”

While she was in the principal’s office, she said the boy and his friends got her son and were beating him up, “and the teacher and them on the side, they stand up and watch.”

She said she then asked the principal to go out and stop them from beating her son. The boys had managed to be separated from her son long enough for the security guard and a teacher to tell her son to run, she claimed.

Defence attorney Ronald Marks, invited to comment by senior magistrate Rickie Burnett, asked Burnett to be lenient, based on what had been said in court.

“When your child leaves home on a morning and goes to school, you want to know that that child is safe,” he stressed.

He stated that it was clear that “they have no control over the school….A security guard is sending a child to run. The security guard supposed to protect the child.”

Marks then stated that he did not think in that situation he would have been able to exercise self-control either, “Because to see your child crying and know the reason that that child is crying, and it happening over and over again…”

The senior magistrate decided to reprimand and discharge Bernard, warning her about her behaviour.

“I know that the boys in school now, they are different from our time. There’s some rough guys in school now, but once they are in school, they are deemed to be students. You can’t have parents leaving home and coming into school and slapping off students, and collaring teachers. That can’t happen.”

However, when SEARCHLIGHT spoke to the principal of the school yesterday, she reiterated that her school does not have a

bullying culture. Latchman also said she is not aware of any previous report that Bernard’s son had been bullied. According to the principal what occurred on the day Bernard came to the school was different to what had been presented

in court.

Latchman said that the teacher in the classroom when the dispute occurred between Bernard’s son and another boy told her that at first, the students were having a “friendly altercation” and were smiling. But that soon changed.

“Eventually the other students were laughing; [Bernard’s son] felt that they were laughing at him.”

The boy then apparently stormed off the school compound, issuing a string of expletives, after packing his bag, the principal said she was told.

Latchman said when she was informed, she tried calling the mother and could not get through.

She said it is school policy that “the child is not allowed back without the parent or the guardian, because we don’t know why he left the compound whether or not he went to get any weapons or anything.”

The mother and son were observed coming up the hill towards the school, so according to the principal, she instructed the security guard to tell them to come straight to her.

According to Latchman, the mother did not wait to meet with her, but while saying, “not me and alya dey today,” she apparently walked into the classroom and slapped the child with whom her son had had the altercation.

Latchman said a teacher who was in the room reported that Bernard picked up a chair to throw it at the child, which was wrestled out of her grip by the said teacher.

“I literally had to hold the lady and pull her out of the classroom, because all of my very angry students, they were upset about what she did.. I was in the middle, she was in front and my angry students were behind. I protected the lady,” the principal stressed.

While barricaded in the office, the mother asked the principal why she didn’t deal with the bullying that day, to which she said, “I said Ma’am, your son did not come to me.”

She said that while they were barricaded, an “unidentified group of students” were attempting to attack the woman’s son, which she said the mother could not have seen because she was in the office the entire time.

One teacher was apparently boxed in the eye,

while working with two security guards to protect the son from being beaten by the school students, who were all outside because it was recess and were very angry.

The police were called, and the son, who had managed to be put outside the school gate and away from the rest of the students, was said to have left with Bernard and the police.

His teachers, including class teacher Gabriel Neverson, indicated that Bernard’s son gives the school problems.

“He is a bully. He bullies other children. He’s one of the biggest bullies in my class and in the entire school. Nobody bullies (the student).”

She says he is supposed to, but does not attend counselling.

Bernard’s son has not returned to the school since the incident, and the mother has not called the school to give reasons for his absence.(KR)