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Parents seeking legal advice

Barry Alleyne

Parents seeking legal advice

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More than 120 angry parents of students of the Alexandra School got to stepping yesterday.
Actually, they got to driving. And now they are thinking about a lawsuit too.
The disgruntled parents went to the headquarters of the Ministry of Education, prepared to officially apply for transfers for their children from the St Peter school.
The parents pooled together in cars around 10.40 a.m., abruptly ending a Parent-Teacher Association meeting at the school, and immediately heading to the ministry’s Constitution Road offices, after president Carl Benskin received a phone call from a ministry official informing him that president of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union, Mary Redman, had refused to attend a meeting earlier arranged by Minister of Education Ronald Jones, and which would also have included Minister of Labour Esther Byer-Suckoo, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, and Parliamentary Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, Senator Harry Husbands.
Benskin revealed they would also be seeking legal advice on the matter so as to explore the option of possibly filing a class action lawsuit against the Ministry of Education for allowing their children to remain without teacher supervision since the term started January 4.
The parents had originally planned, and have received police permission, to picket the ministry’s offices tomorrow, but fast-tracked their action yesterday after the BSTU chief opted not to take part in last-ditch efforts aimed at solving an impasse that has left more than 800 students without teachers since the first day of the second school term.
Thirty minutes after the parents arrived, they were invited into the ministry’s conference room, where Chief Education Officer Laurie King assured them the ministry was doing everything “humanly possible” to bring a resolution to the situation.
 In response to a question from the parents’ spokesperson Stacy Briggs-Saunders, King said providing temporary teachers to the school remained a possibility, but noted that such a move might prompt stiff opposition from the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union.
“I can assure you that everything humanly possibly is being done. Every effort will be made to make sure this time will be made up for the students,” King promised.
Ministry officials also confirmed they were in receipt of a copy of a number of negative sounding emails, purported to have been sent out by teachers on the social network Facebook. “I’m hoping it won’t come to the point where parents have to seek transfers,” King added.
“This may not be as straightforward an issue as earlier perceived. I share your pain,” the Chief Education Officer told the parents. “But I can assure you the primary objective of the ministry is to ensure the children of Barbados receive a quality education every minute of every day. We are doing everything humanly possible to correct this situation,” he stressed.
King also hinted that a resolution, if not reached at a ministerial level, could go above that body to the Cabinet of Barbados.
At yesterday’s PTA meeting, the parents decided that they would still protest outside the ministry’s headquarters tomorrow from 10 a.m., having received permission to do so from the Commissioner of Police.
King also informed the parents that they would not be able to directly seek transfers from the ministry, since that action involved parents dealing directly with principals of other schools, who would then determine if they had enough room to accept new students.
 “But I’m hoping it won’t come to the point where parents do have to seek transfers.”
King also admitted that the ministry had never before had to deal with a matter like this one.
“We’ve been devoting all of our time to this, but it is a matter of a serious magnitude,” the Chief Education Officer noted.
“Every effort will be made to make sure extra classes are somehow held, so in the end no time is lost,” he said.

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