GOSSIP got out of hand, it seems, at SC McPherson last week.
It all started with the tragic death of Robert Valcom Jr, who collapsed at a Dairy Queen two weekends ago.
He was only 15-years-old, and his death could and should have been enough to talk about on its own. It is a truly sad moment, leaving a family in mourning.
At such a time, the community who knew him should be reaching out to the family to offer support, to show they share the pain of his loss – and yet, instead we have mischief makers who seem to have little thought for the family and their grief.
It appears some students, rather than contacting the family and asking what could they do to help, decided it would be better to start a rumour. They spread the word that Robert died because a teacher denied him medication during a Saturday class.
It’s not true. Let us be clear about that. His own mother said her son didn’t take any medication, while his father bemoans “people here making chaos and making this what it isn’t and they ain’ feeling the pain that I am feeling”.
Sadly, one half of an old saying, about a lie having speed, has proven to be true.
Rather than question whether the rumour was true, it led to a wave of vile behaviour on the campus of SC McPherson School. Teachers have been threatened, profanity has been chanted throughout the school, classrooms have been vandalised, graffiti plastered on school walls and teachers’ belongings have been stolen, says the vice-president of the Bahamas Union of Teachers, Vernon Rodgers.
One teacher even had a student sneak up behind her and cut off some of her hair, said Mr Rodgers, while another had a bottle of water thrown at her chest. He also said two “outsiders” came onto the school compound armed with a weapon looking for the teacher they said “killed the student”.
In such an atmosphere, it is sad to see that teachers felt the need to walk out until the matter can be resolved, much to the displeasure of Minister of Education Jeff Lloyd, who yesterday denounced such a move. Before he denounced the teachers’ actions, however, his first step was to reiterate that the rumour was false, and no teacher was empowered to administer or withhold medication.
It is perhaps a blessing that we are now on mid-term break so tempers can cool – but we must make sure that we do not rely on crossed fingers that things will return to normal.
Let us return to that old saying. A lie has speed, but truth has endurance. It must be made very clear to students that not only is this behaviour based on a false rumour, but that it is also hurting the very family the students purport to be acting out on behalf of.
Robert’s family would not want teachers to be threatened and assaulted based on a lie about their son’s death. He deserves better treatment by those who would call themselves his classmates and colleagues.
For those who damaged property, who initiated such abuse, we would hope they would feel shame at their actions, knowing they had acted on a lie.
And in all of this, we would hope the rest of The Bahamas can learn a lesson too. Too often, stories based on unreliable rumours sweep around the social networks and gossip sites of this country. Perhaps look at this moment and next time someone sends you an unverified WhatsApp or a suspicious Facebook meme, think twice and check it before you share it. And to those who think it’s fun to start such rumours? Don’t. You’re helping no one.
There are enough real problems in this country that need to be dealt with. No one should have to waste time and resources dealing with fake ones.
So after weeks of reaction to the FNM’s plans for a Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill, out comes Immigration Minister Brent Symonette to say wait, hold up, we didn’t mean for you to see that.
He says the document was put up prematurely on the Attorney General’s website. Well, that may explain a technical blunder, but it doesn’t explain the Attorney General himself coming out to discuss the implications of the bill. It doesn’t explain PLP leader Philip ‘Brave’ Davis standing up to weigh in on the proposals, because clearly no one from the government had reached out to him to explain the gaffe.
So what are we supposed to do? Pretend we never saw it? Pretend these aren’t actually proposals being considered by the government?
And if people affected by the proposals were confused before, where are they left to stand now? Come on, government, get your act together.