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WE WERE BULLIED

By NALINEE SEELAL and RACHAEL ESPINET Thursday, March 20 2014

click on pic to zoom in

The bullying of two girls triggered last Friday’s brawl outside Mucurapo West Secondary School, St James which led to the suspension of the girls and eight other female students.

Netifa Skinner and Shania Fairdairs, both 13, said yesterday they were attacked two days after they were threatened by a group of older girls for refusing to say “excuse me please”.

The Form Two students said last Wednesday they were blocked by the older girls when they went to the female toilets.

“It started when we went to the bathroom. They were standing by the door, and I said ‘excuse’, but they wanted us to say ‘excuse me please.’ They said we had to say ‘please’, but we were not friends, so we passed through them. After that they started harassing us,” Skinner told Newsday.

She said the girls would throw chairs, small coconuts and other objects at them when they went to class.

Skinner said she reported the girls to the dean who called a meeting; however she knew the girls would not stop harassing them.

“I told Shania that they were ready to beat us. Then on Friday they jumped Shania. I tried to pull them off of her, but then somebody kicked me, and that is how I got in the fight,” said Skinner.

Now Skinner, Fairdairs and eight other students were suspended for the fight which was filmed by a student using a camera phone, and uploaded to the popular video-sharing website YouTube. The video was then circulated around social media sites.

During the fight Fairdairs was stomped on the chest, and has had problems breathing since then. That day she was taken to the St James Health Centre to be treated for her injuries. Skinner said she only had bruises.

Skinner said other girls joined the fight trying to stop the bullies from beating her and Fairdairs. She said this fight was not the first fight she got into with those girls, but those were on a much smaller scale.

Now, the two girls are afraid to go back to school because they might be attacked again. Fairdairs said she wants a transfer, but because of the footage of the fight she is afraid she would not get accepted into another school.

“I’m scared that if I go back to school they will come again. I don’t want to go out to school, but the fight is all over the internet. I would not get into another school,” said Fairdairs.

Skinner’s mother, Kadajahia Barker said it was unfair the two girls were suspended. Barker blames inaction by the police and the principal for the events that led to the fight, saying yesterday her daughter had been a victim of violence since she began attending the school.

Barker said two years ago she went to the St James Police Station to report that her daughter was being bullied and was shocked when a female officer told her there was nothing the police could do and referred her to the Ministry of Education.

Barker sought the advice of a male officer who said she could approach officers of the community police, but she was so disturbed by the inaction of the female officer that she did not bother to go to the community police.

Barker said for two years her daughter complained bitterly about the many attacks and threats she was subjected to at school. She added her daughter reported the incidents to the dean, but received no redress and the situation continued to escalate.

She said last Friday, at about 2.15 pm, her daughter and Fairdairs were leaving the school’s compound when Fairdairs was attacked by the group of girls, which included the daughter of a principal of another school, and was thrown into a drain.

“My daughter and other classmates were in the process of assisting Shania when one of the girls kicked my daughter on her back, another pulled her by her hair, while a third student beat her with a school bag,” said Barker.

It was only after an off duty policeman, PC Jalani Prince, intervened and quelled the fight to some extent, that her daughter and her friend were able to compose themselves and alert her, she said.

When Barker received a call from her daughter, she was informed of the fight and later took the two girls to the St James Health Centre.

Barker said on Monday she went to the Ministry of Education and spoke with an official for about five minutes and asked for a transfer for her daughter and was told they would get back to her by tomorrow. Barker said she was surprised when her daughter received a suspension letter from the principal.

The letter stated Skinner was suspended for seven days effective March 17 pending an investigation by the Ministry of Education.

The suspension may be extended by the Minister of Education for “proper enquires to be made”. At the end of the investigation, the student may either be reinstated, transferred or expelled. The letter also said the ministry has the power to debar the student from sitting CXC and GCE examinations.

Newsday understands the other nine students received similar letters. Barker said when she read the suspension letter she was flabbergasted. “I want to know where the principal has reached with this investigation because on Monday she did not tell us anything and she was saying that the matter was in the dean’s hands,” she said.

“I feel I am to be blamed myself because my daughter has been asking me to take her out of that school. She said mummy it makes no sense I going to school because teachers never come to school.”

Baker said she planned to return to the St James Police Station to again lodge a report to the police, and she had also planned to meet with the principal to discuss the suspension of her daughter.

Several female students yesterday expressed concern that the school’s reputation was tarnished.

“Everybody says we are bad girls. Stores put up signs saying no Mucurapo students. They are saying ‘look at those girls who fight.’ I feel embarrassed. The garbage man even told me that we are bad influences,” one girl said.

The girls described the fight on Friday as “petty” as there were much worse fights that have happened recently in the school.

“This wasn’t even the worst fight. There have been fights where people got chopped up,” the student said.

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