Johnann Jerry-Lovell arrived yesterday at the Guardian building fuming and demanded that she speak with a reporter.
“They now send home my son from school because he doesn’t have on a mask,” she said gesturing to her 13-year-old who was still in his uniform.
The monogram may not have been recognised by many as it said Goodwill, with its motto, Not Charity, Just Chance.
Goodwill Industries located at Fitzblackman Drive, Port-of-Spain is a technical vocational skill centre that caters for those Jerry-Lovell described as “special needs children.”
Jerry-Lovell told Guardian Media that as far as she was aware, the mask mandate for all schools was lifted by the Ministry of Education (MOE). This was something she was grateful for, as she said her son suffered from seizures and the mask would exacerbate his condition.
“When he had to wear the mask, he would come in the vehicle breathless and his eyes would be red. During the vacation just last month, he had only two or three episodes. When he was wearing the mask, he was getting six or seven.”
Therefore, she said, she was confused when her son told her on Monday that he must wear a mask the following day.
“I indicated to him that you are not going to be wearing any more mask and I am sending you with a note.”
But it seemed as if the note had no effect and Jerry-Lovell said she was asked to come back for him.
“They called me on the phone and told me that he’s no longer welcome in the school because he’s not wearing a mask and he sat in the car park from quarter to eight until I came at eleven o’clock, unsupervised. If rain had fallen, he would have been soaked.”
Jerry-Lovell said the school’s principal again told her that she insisted that masks be worn at the school.
During the interview, the son interjected and said, “Miss told me I have to put on a mask if I want to go for water, lunch and break, no mask means no water or break.”
Jerry-Lovell said her son was now wondering what he did wrong.
“The principal did not even formally say that she was keeping the mask mandate. We have a WhatsApp group and he’s been going to school without the mask since school started on September 12. Monday was the only day he came home and said he needed a mask.”
She said she went to the MOE which is obliquely opposite Guardian Media’s head office and she was told that there was little they could do.
“They said yes, it’s a Government-assisted school but it’s also private and from what the ministry announced before, the choice is mine, so I don’t know what going on.”
Jerry-Lovell said she saw no need to get a medical exemption for her son as she believes his condition is straight forward.
“Lack of oxygen causes seizures,” she said slowly.
Jerry-Lovell said she had now initiated legal action as she believed her son was unfairly being denied an education.
Guardian Media reached out to the school’s principal, Barbara Alleyne who was also the institution’s chief executive officer. She confirmed the incident but said that Jerry-Lovell was a troublemaker.
“Our rules never changed and she (Jerry-Lovell) wanted to change the rules and I am saying no,” Alleyne said.
She indicated to Guardian Media that the school recently had an outbreak of the flu and furthermore she as principal never lifted the mask mandate which was in place since the previous academic year.
Alleyne said she was not making any exceptions.
“He is not welcomed back to the school, because I have over a hundred children and you can’t have that one breaking all the rules all the time.”
Alleyne added that the school’s layout did not allow for social distancing and that was another reason that masks were to be worn.
The principal also denied that the boy was made to wait for his mother in an area that was unsafe for him.
She invited Guardian Media to visit the school and speak to the teachers and students about the behaviour of Jerry-Lovell and her son.
Meanwhile, Jerry-Lovell indicated to Guardian Media that she would be taking her son back to school today without a mask, on the advice of her lawyer.
Guardian Media reached out to Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly but she did not respond up to press time.