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Mahabir-Wyatt: No need to probe St Michael’s over Brandon’s death

By Camille Bethel camille.bethel@trinidadexpress.com

Chairman of the Child Protection Task Force Diana Mahabir-Wyatt, does not believe there is reason to investigate the St Michael’s School for Boys over the falling death of 14-year-old Brandon Hargreaves.
Reports state that Hargreaves, who was sent to the institution in 2012 after he was found locked in a dog kennel with a dangerous dog, died from a fall while play-fighting with another boy at the institution last week. His mother has since called for the school to be investigated over his death.
Mahabir-Wyatt told the Express Saturday, she found it ironic that Brandon’s mother was now calling for an investigation, based on the conditions that he was found in back in 2012.
“Think back over Brandon and his mom, accidents do happen and boys do battle each other and from the report Brandon was trying to kick box somebody and fell backwards. Well, I have seen my own son try to do that. Unfortunately Brandon hit his head, my son didn’t. He just broke a couple of ribs at that age, so I am too practical to read into making accusations against the home because of boys being boys,” she said.
She added that there have been improvements at the St Michael’s School for Boys over the past two months since the Children’s Authority started training staff and monitoring that institution along with others.
“There was a problem for sometime at St Michael’s School because of lack of training of staff and lack of staff. Now that the Children’s Authority is up, the Children’s Authority has been sending people to the school as well as to the other institutions; number one to monitor what is going on and number two to give training to the staff in terms of how to discipline without violence and how to deal with teenagers etc, and that has been going on for a couple of months,” she said.
Mahabir-Wyatt said by September the Children’s Authority should be able to do more because they will have their full complement of staff by then.
“Don’t forget the Children’s Authority is just starting, but they have been doing a lot of work even with inadequate staff. By the time they get their full staff up, which will be by September and they are going as fast as they can. But at least we have something that has started and it is not the usual yes ‘we will look into it’ and nobody ever does anything; things really are moving.”
She said the Children’s Authority does have the authority to pick up children who are being abused and remove them.
“But if a child accuses another child of abuse, I know (with my own children) they accuse each other of aIl kinds of things and I know from working in the shelters as well that sometimes children will make accusations that were not substantiated.
“You don’t want to further traumatise a child by accusing them of something they have not done. If it is the staff that you are accusing then we certainly have to investigate and I should never not investigate an accusation that a child makes against a staff member. “Whatever their background is has to be worked out to know whether or not it is true and whether or not there is a possibility that staff member might abuse other children and the Children’s Authority once it has all of its mechanisms in place certainly will be able to do that,” she added.
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