Addressing the Magistrate’s Court yesterday, Stephens-Gordon said some of the practices being used by educators across the territory can be considered as criminal offences so the ministry needs to revisit them.
According to the attorney, while some of the disciplinary methods were acceptable in previous years, there has been a global shift and some of these practices have become outdated in the 21st century.
Stephens-Gordon was addressing the court on behalf of her client Tiye Hodge, a former educator at the Ivan Dawson Primary School who pleaded guilty to using a noxious substance in a negligent manner. Back in January 2020, Hodge gave one of her 11-year-old students a substance — believed to be some kind of cleaning agent — to gargle after the child reportedly used indecent and foul language.
The attorney said it seems the practice of washing out someone’s mouth with a cleaning agent is something common in the territory and something ingrained in Virgin Islands culture. She noted there may be similar disciplinary actions out there that can be harmful to children that are being deemed as suitable in schools because it was not frowned upon in former years.
In a shocking revelation to the court yesterday, Stephens-Gordon claimed her client was acting on the advice of a superior — the principal of the school. The attorney said Hodge had previously communicated to the principal that the child was using foul language in class and she was not sure how to deal with the situation.
Stephens-Gordon told the court the principal indicated to her client that using Dettol or alcohol to wash out the child’s mouth was an acceptable method of discipline.
The attorney also told the court that the principal reportedly had told Hodge this was a practice she had done when she was teaching at the school in Anegada.
Stephens-Gordon said young professionals are normally told to speak with their superior when they encounter an unmanageable situation in the workplace. She told the court her client did not mean any harm in her actions but was merely using a method encouraged by her superior.