Girl’s attorneys write to Education Minister over fallen gate at Carapichaima school

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo: Minister of Education Nyan Gadsby-Dolly.

ATTORNEYS for the Carapichaima East Secondary School student injured when a gate at the school fell on her on April 25 are asking the Ministry of Education to state its position on liability for her injuries.

In a pre-action protocol letter on Wednesday, attorneys for the girl and her parents also put the ministry on notice of potential litigation of the matter.

However, they said their client had “no particular zeal to engage in protracted litigation,” if it could be avoided.

“The primary point of concern for our client and/or our client’s parents, at this stage, is the welfare and safety of our client and/or other students at the Carapichaima East Secondary School,” said attorney Amy Rajkumar, who is representing the 13-year-old girl and her parents along with attorneys Matthew Gayle and Jason Jones.

In the letter, Rajkumar said the incident took place on the girl’s first day of in-person classes. She had been previously homeschooled by her parents, who then decided to enrol her in the public school system. She is in form two.

The attorney said the girl “was eager to embark upon her new educational journey.”

The incident took place at about 8 am while the girl and her schoolmates were by the assembly hall. The letter said a staff member tried to either open or close the three-part metal folding gate, but it suddenly fell on the teenager, hitting her head and back. She also received injuries to her hand, shoulder, knees, and lower back when she fell.

The attorney said the gate was seven feet high and nine feet wide and had to be lifted off the girl by students and staff. Her parents were called and took her to the Freeport Health Centre.

The letter said the school’s vice principal extended his concern and regret to the girl’s parents and told them the school’s infrastructure was inspected the Friday before in anticipation of the resumption of in-person classes.

The letter said no evidence of this was provided, but a school supervisor told her parents the incident would receive the “expeditious attention” of the ministry.

The letter also said later that night the girl had to be taken back to hospital because of “excruciating pain,” and first went to the Chaguanas Health Centre, then the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, where she was treated and prescribed medication.

Since the incident, the girl has not returned to school.

Her parents received an accident/injury report form to fill out and the letter says they continue to be “irrepressibly worried” about what took place.

“Having entrusted our client to the care and custody of the public school system, our client’s parents now feel a sense of powerlessness, dejection, and disenchantment as a consequence of what appears to be a fundamental failing and/or refusal by the Ministry of Education and/or its agents, to take reasonable care to ensure the safety and/or wellbeing of our client and/or other students at the secondary school.

“It goes without saying that a minor child ought to be able to have the trust and confidence that their school, and any agents of the State who exercise administrative authority at their school, will be acting in their best interest.

“Parents ought to be able to have the same confidence in the State,” the letter said.

In addition to asking the ministry to state its position on liability by May 22, they also want an undertaking that the ministry will investigate the incident; that immediate steps will be taken to properly repair/replace the gate and rectify the hazards associated with it; and a full hazard and risk assessment will be done at the school.