TTUTA warns teachers: Don’t intervene in school fights

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

TTUTA president Martin Lum Kin – Photo by Marvin Hamilton

PRESIDENT of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) Martin Lum Kin is advising teachers against intervening to stop fights among students.

His advice comes after a video of a fight involving Tranquillity Secondary School, Port of Spain students was widely shared on social media platforms.

The 23-second video, allegedly taken by a student on November 4, showed two separate fights among female students in the school’s car park with scores of students looking on.

The camera panned to the left, and captured the female principal and a male teacher trying to break up one of the fights. But even as the principal got among the fighting girls, they continued to fight over her.

The camera shifted away for a few seconds, and when it moved back the principal was seen falling to the ground. She landed on her back, but the fight continued. It is unclear if she was shoved or if she stumbled.

A male staff member and at least one student attempted to help her to her feet.

No one was injured.

Police have since launched an investigation and taken reports from several of the students who were allegedly involved.

Speaking with Newsday on Monday night, Lum Kin said TTUTA has launched its own investigation.

But he warned his members they can risk being seriously injured intervening in these types of altercations.

“We are very concerned about it, and when the incidents where our members, whether the teachers or administrators, get injured during these scuffles and fights, we are also very concerned.

“The principal (in the latest incident) was thrown to the ground, and we still have to find out what caused that.

“We see in other videos where teachers getting involved would have had some level of injury during that scuffle.”

He reminded members of the possible legal implications if students sustain bodily harm or are touched inappropriately.

“We have school safety officers in secondary schools who should be intervening; we have school security as well. Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said the education system will not be held to ransom by students who, despite the best efforts of Student Support Services Division (SSSD) officers, continue to disrupt schools.

She said the students directly involved in the fracas have been suspended and will receive attention from the SSSD.

“However, depending on their disciplinary history, their parents will receive expulsion warning letters on their return to school, or the students may face expulsion at this time.”

She added, “The principal’s report with full details is expected tomorrow, and that will determine the exact nature of the discipline to be meted out to each student identified as being directly involved in this incident.”

Gadsby-Dolly said the ministry and the safety of teachers, administrators and students is being compromised by a minority of students, “Who continue, by their actions, to disrupt some schools and bring the education system into disrepute.

“The law allows for such students to be removed from the system to restore an atmosphere of safety and security to the learning environment, and this option has been, and will continue to be, exercised.

National Parent/Teachers Association president Kevin David said stakeholders must do more to bring indiscipline under control.

“This shows the level of indiscipline within our school system. It also, again, shows the level of parental involvement that is needed to assist in bringing a reduction in these incidents in schools. It’s a reflection of our society.”

Newsday unsuccessfully attempted the speak to the principal who was still on the compound on Monday after school hours.

Secondary Schools Principal Association head Sheera Carrington-James could not be reached for comment.