THE State should not interfere with disciplinary action at home once it is not in violation of any right of the child.
This according to Davanand Sinanan, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA).
He said TTUTA was not in support of corporal punishment in schools but parents should be allowed to discipline children at home.
His comments follows newspaper reports of a court matter in which Marisa Ellis was charged with beating a ten-year-old girl with a belt. Ellis is the child’s guardian.
Yesterday, the Children's Authority sent a document to the Express via e-mail entitled “Issues of special relevance to principals and teachers with respect to the new package of legislation for children."
The eight-page document summarises the Children's Act 2012 with specific reference to teachers and their conduct with pupils. It deals with seven main topics including children's care and protection and “the decriminalisation of sexual activity between children."
Sinanan said: “Parents should be able to discipline their children as they see fit within of course the structure of the law. We have to be very careful in how the State begins to encroach in the home and starts to legislate exactly how parents should bring up their children. That is something I will not advocate for at all. A parent must be allowed a certain amount of leeway to discipline their children at home."
By law, teachers cannot use corporal punishment to discipline pupils but can “administer reasonable punishment,” according to the Children Act 2012.
Sinanan said: “It is the policy of the Ministry of Education several years now a position for which we have no problem once the child's rights are not violated in any way, once the safety and health of the child is not compromised in any way.”
Reasonable punishment could include separating a child from the other class members or denying the child certain privileges Sinanan said.
He said: “There are several other different options for punishment of course within the law.”
Sinanan added that when the ban on corporal punishment was first introduced by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar who was then Minister of Education it was “done in a very hasty manner”, and people were not yet willing to subject to it.
He said: “It was done overnight. Bearing in mind the prevailing culture of Trinidadian and Caribbean society against colonialism and slavery etcetera where corporal punishment was pretty acceptable in homes and communities. A lot of people still feel that corporal punishment is alright but beyond that we have no problem with the fact that the law strictly prohibits teachers from using corporal punishment in schools.”