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Students clash again at Cedros Secondary

Parents, staff accuse principal of cover-up
Thursday, February 13, 2014

Students at the Cedros Secondary School clashed again on Tuesday after a case of bullying led to one student stabbing another at the school. Desks, chairs and dustbins also were thrown out of classrooms by students who also got into individual fights during the stabbing incident, as they responded violently to teachers’ attempts to calm them down and get them back to classes. This was the second such incident at the school and staff and students are now traumatised. The first was on January 23.



Parents and staff, however, are also now accusing the principal, Wendy Mathura, of attempting to cover up the incident and calling for answers as to why the incident of bullying which sparked the latest rioting was allowed to get out of hand. Although T&T Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) president Devanand Sinanan confirmed the incident yesterday, South Western Division Police said no report had been made to Cedros police. 


According to a source at the school, the stabbing occurred during the lunch period when a Form Five student was bullying a Form One student. The source said the elder student “was making fun of his hairstyle and tapped him on his head. The Form One student then pulled out a screwdriver and stabbed the Form Five student on his shoulder several times. 


The source added: “The Form Five student started to beat up the Form One student and other students started to behave like a mob. Several other fights began, similar to the fight that took place on January 23, when students started to throw furniture and fruits at one another and at teachers. 


“Some teachers stood helpless and some had to run back to the staffroom. The principal and teachers tried to settle the school after the stabbing but the students, when they went back to their classes, began throwing chairs, desks, dustbins and blackboards out of the classroom.” The source said there were claims that since the principal arrived at the school recently, having transferred from another school, there had been a breakdown in discipline and respect for students and teachers had dwindled. 


The source said members of the community have also been upset over not getting to use the facility for community events. The school is the only venue  between Icacos and Point Fortin large enough to host functions. One parent said: “Is it that the authorities don't care? Putting her in a school behind God's back and turn a blind eye. As a concerned parent, that school will only continue to go further down unless that principal is removed.”


According to the source, security also had to block the principal’s office yesterday after students refused to go back to class after lunch. Students were reportedly beating dustbin covers and chanting. “Someone called the CEO (chief education officer), and the CEO called the supervisor and the supervisor called the school concerning the reported riot. The school said it was just a little thing and they had it under control,” the source said.


In an interview yesterday, Sinanan said TTUTA was aware of the problems at the school and representatives spent hours there last Friday investigating the issues. However, he said, students flooded the school’s corridors in protest yesterday calling for the principal to go He added:  “I spoke to a member of staff yesterday and today. I don’t know if rioting is the correct word but I know there was some unusual development at the school. There was clapping and chanting and they were calling for a new principal.


“I spent several hours there on Friday last week... myself, Ms De Freitas and Mr Lumpkin. There were some serious administrative issues that we really have to sort out. All is not well and we are trying to work with the authorities to get this resolved.”



Principal: No riot
Contacted late yesterday, principal Mathura confirmed there was a fight at the school but denied anyone was stabbed. “Two students had a little fight but there was no stabbing,” Mathura told the T&T Guardian. She also denied there was any clash as a result of the fight on Tuesday and said she was unaware of a student protest outside her office yesterday. Asked where she thought the claims came from, Mathura said she had no idea but said someone might have an agenda against her.


She also denied claims that the community was being denied access to the school, noting that church groups, fishermen, scouts, SporTT and the West Indies Players’ Association (Wipa) were using the school to host various activities. Contacted yesterday, Alicia Busby, communications adviser at the Ministry of Education, said officials of the ministry were unaware of the incident. However, she promised they would launch an investigation into the matter now that they were made aware of it. 


This was the third incident of violence at a school in under two weeks and the second to be sparked by a case of bullying. Last week there were attacks at Presentation College, San Fernando, and Russell Latapy High School, Morvant, respectively. The incident at Presentation College was said to have been caused by a student bullying another.


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