By Ava Turnquest
Tribune Chief Reporter
A FATHER’s outrage over the beating of a seventh grade student by a senior official at St Augustine’s College has reignited viral debate over the use of corporal punishment in schools.
The private Catholic school is investigating the incident, and The Tribune was told the matter is also being investigated by the police.
Ian Mills took to Facebook to share a photo of his son’s bruised buttocks on Tuesday evening, alleging that his child was beaten that day for “clowning and talking in class”.
The picture of a large raised purple bruise across the child’s bottom has been deleted but the post had attracted more than 400 comments, 144 likes, and 173 shares by midday yesterday.
“So I’m trying my hardest to keep my cool,” Mr Mills wrote, “this is how my son 7th grader at SAC came home just now. Spoke to the principal and she asked me what I wanted her to say to the dean!
“Asked me to come into school in the morning. I already said 15 prayers for the Lord to please take this anger out of me cause I know me. MY children.”
The post continued: “This what he got for clowning and talking in class. I don’t even beat my children! And this how he’s coming home black and blue. I told them I’m going to put it on Facebook. This is crazy, I told him he was joking when he told me he got beating and was falling on the ground hoping that he would stop beating him.”
Parents of the seventh grader met with school officials yesterday morning, and SAC has declined comment at this time.
The Bahamas Catholic Board of Education does not have any regulatory oversight of SAC as the school has its own private board.
Yesterday, Catholic Archbishop Patrick Pinder declined comment on the matter as it was under active investigation by the school and police.
The use of corporal punishment in public schools has been discouraged in recent years, with Education Minister Jeffrey Lloyd stating that children should only be beaten in schools if all other options have been exhausted, and in the most egregious of circumstances.
Yesterday, Mr Lloyd said he had not been fully briefed on the incident at SAC and reserved comment on the matter.
However, he reiterated the ministry’s position on corporal punishment, noting the public tension over whether the practice should be discontinued.
“There is a debate where those who feel that corporal punishment should be eliminated, there are those who believe that corporal punishment should remain as at least some possible sanction in the hand of a mother, teacher, or administrator. That debate obviously will continue, the government will have a final position sometime after proper vetting of the discussion with relevant stakeholders.
“However, there is a very clear rule in the government’s manual with regard to corporal punishment,” Mr Lloyd said, “it is administered as a last resort and it is only administered by an administrator in the presence of another administrator.
“So this issue of corporal punishment being willy-nilly applied is something that is not sanctioned by the government, and it is repudiated at every instance, anywhere that it occurs. Our children are not to be abused, that is not the intention, that is not going to be accepted and any incident of abuse whether it’s physical, moral, intellectual, or otherwise will be strictly met with the most vigorous of resistance by this minister and the ministry.”
Mr Mills’ post invoked a wide range of responses, with some expressing shock and disgust, others advocating for violent retaliation, and SAC alum coming to the defence of the senior official and the instrument used to administer punishment, named “black beauty”.
FB user Glenisha Albury wrote: ‘I know everyone is upset with SAC…but (senior official) really and truly uses corporal punishment as last resort. He talks several times to students about their behaviour before he gets to that level. Everyone is threatening his life when (the official) has saved more lives than your favs (sic).”
Another user Rayne Heastie wrote: “I didn’t know there were parents that sent their kids to SAC without knowing that they would be beaten with ‘black beauty’ if they misbehaved. I remember when (the official) beat my * in grade eight in front of the whole class. I didn’t tell Mummy about that until long after I graduated.”
Tio Panza wrote: “Y’all in here giving yinna testimony about y’all kids. No one knows what these kids be like in school. We acted out as kids an’ got cut for it. If you don’t want your child spanked, home school them. Or put them in an institution that does not believe in it. None of y’all talking bout moving y’all kids that got cut , so either shut it up or fix ya situation (sic).”
Another user Renea Mariea Joseph-Deveaux wrote: “I will never understand why people feel that beating a child to the point where they can’t sit down is discipline, it’s damn abuse, pure and simple. . .Not because our parents did it means it’s right. It’s still abuse.”