Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Disciplinary charges dropped

The Ministry of Education has discontinued disciplinary charges against six teachers of the Tranquillity Secondary School for staying away from classes due to health and safety concerns six years ago.

President of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association Lynsley Doodhai said yesterday the decision was long overdue and came much too late, as one of the teachers, stressed by the ordeal, died before her name was cleared.

He said last Thursday a disciplinary tribunal met on the matter and the ministry decided to discontinue the charges.

He said in the six years of proceedings against them, the teachers had their increments illegally stopped, adding that TTUTA’s legal counsel advised that this should have never happened.

“The teachers who applied for job letters had inserted on it the fact that they were on disciplinary charges,” Doodhai told a news conference at TTUTA’s head office in Curepe.

“Two of the teachers are the most senior teachers in their departments and missed out on the opportunity to act as head of departments or dean. They were denied promotional opportunities. They suffered mental anguish and stress as a result of these charges,” he added.

He said one of the teachers, Meredith Rose, died from stress related to the charges.

“She was just 33. She died in 2014. She would have been badly affected by the disciplinary charges and it is felt that would have contributed to her untimely and premature demise,” he said.

“It’s very sad that Ms Rose would have gone to her grave and she would never have been vindicated in terms of acting within the law of Trinidad and Tobago, in terms of action to preserve health and safety. So while we celebrate the victory, we are a bit sad in terms of Ms Rose not being here to celebrate that victory,” he lamented.

The charges

The disciplinary charges against the six teachers included failing to attend school for between 15 to 20 days and being absent from school without leave.

According to Doodhai, after frequent shut downs and small electrical fires, an electrical inspection was conducted at the school which found 114 defects.

He said despite the findings, the Ministry of Education demanded that the teachers continue working.

Eighty of the school’s teachers reported to work as normal while six stayed away.

“On the advice of TTUTA, some teachers refused to occupy the defective buildings. Some of them, including the association’s three staff representatives, had disciplinary proceedings initiated against them,” he noted.

“TTUTA felt then, and still feels now, that it was a bad decision to require the teachers to work in the unsafe and unhealthy environment.

‘It was an even worse decision to pursue disciplinary action against the teachers,” he said.

He noted that despite the charges hanging over their heads for the past six years, the teachers continued to perform their duties at the school.

As to the increments which were stopped, Doodhai called on the ministry to ensure that all arrears are reimbursed as quickly as possible.

He went on warn:

“TTUTA hopes that the Ministry of Education would have learnt a lesson from this matter. Careful consideration of the facts needs to be done before disciplinary action is taken against the teachers.

“We warn the Ministry of Education about bringing up ill-advised charges against teachers of Ste Madeleine Secondary.”