Jamaica: Students turned away from school
STEER TOWN, St Ann — Several students, the majority of them males, were turned away from the newly opened Steer Town Academy yesterday after their attire was deemed inappropriate.
Chairman of the school board, Neville Williams — who said he wants the school to become a model institution — said indiscipline including lack of respect for school rules will not be tolerated.
“Go home! You are not coming in here like that! That pants cannot come in here!” Williams shouted to a male student who was wearing a tight-fitting pants yesterday on the first morning of the new school year.
“Those of you with the tight pants, don’t even try it!” Williams declared.
The boy and several others were sent through the school gate as well as several females whose skirts stopped inches short of the required length.
Williams, joined by the school’s Dean of Discipline Hugh Johnson, other members of staff and a police team manned the entrance to the facility, ensuring that only students who were properly attired were allowed on campus.
He later told the Jamaica Observer there will be a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of indiscipline, whether from students or their parents.
“For me, the first sign of discipline has to do with uniform and if you are not in compliance with that, you are at liberty to break whatever rule you want to break when you get in here,” he told the Observer.
Yesterday, a number of parents who wanted to enter the school compound for various reasons, including registration and to hand over lunch money to their children, had to wait in the scorching mid-morning sun while school administrators ensured that the students were settled before they were attended to.
Acting principal for the school, Kelly Rowe explained that the parents could not have been accommodated before the students were dealt with, and that all procedures had been fully explained to them prior to the start of school yesterday.
“It’s all in the name of discipline and that is one of our main focus here at Steer Town Academy. We have to start from now to ensure that we don’t have a recurrence… we couldn’t [tend to] them (parents) before the students were settled,” she told the Observer.
She explained, too, that the school was working to reach as many parents as possible to ensure that the standards and rules of the schools were upheld while at and away from school.
“We just need to reach the parents. The parents are our main concern, as we know discipline and everything starts at home. So, once we get the parents on board, everything will be fine,” she said.
Yesterday, majority of the approximately 900 students turned out for classes at the facility, for which construction was delayed for about two years.
“School got off to a fine start and we will work with what we have until we get all that we want,” Rowe said, explaining that in addition to other amenities, there were some 21 classrooms and 17 laboratories.
“We plan to work with the students to get them to where we want them. Some might not be academically inclined, but currently our curriculum caters to those… students,” she said.
“So we have the hands-on courses that they will do such as cosmetology, plumbing, agriculture, woodwork and so forth,” Kelly said, noting that soon Steer Town Academy, which is one of two centres of excellence across the island, would become the school of choice in the parish.
Meanwhile, the school’s dean of discipline said the initiative which was started yesterday to get students and parents to conform with all the school’s rules, including the dress code, would be sustained.
“It is a work in progress; it is a new school and we will be having new rules and it’s a zero tolerance. We will not allow parents to interfere with the way we run this school,” he said, pointing out that there are also plans to patrol the streets to ensure discipline is upheld off campus.
Some of the parents who were barred from entering said they were happy that measures were being implemented to ensure that the school operates in a similar fashion to other “top” high schools in the island.
“Every parent gets a handbook and if they had read it no child would [have been] turned away. We, the parents, just have to work with the school and the teachers and help make the school the best school in St Ann,” one parent, Judith Bernard, told the Observer.