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Principal advised teacher to wash child’s mouth with detergent, court told

Principal advised teacher to wash child’s mouth with detergent, court told

The Magistrate’s Court has been told that the school teacher who ‘washed out’ an 11-year-old child’s mouth with a noxious substance as a form of discipline was advised to do so by a superior at the school.

In a tearful message to the court today, Tiye Hodge expressed her regret and shame for the action.

She also apologised to the court as well as the victim and her family for any harm or distress caused.

The defendant, who was a 23-year old teacher at the Ivan Dawson Primary School when the incident happened, had pleaded guilty to the charge of using a noxious substance in a negligent manner when she previously appeared in court.

The court was told that prior to the January 2020 incident, Hodge had complained to her principal about one of her student’s constant use of foul and indecent language in her class.

Hodge’s lawyer, Valerie Stephens-Gordon, informed the court that the principal reportedly told the defendant that using Dettol or alcohol to wash out a child’s mouth was a disciplinary method that could be used. She also claimed the principal told Hodge this was a method she had employed while teaching at a school in Anegada.

On the other occasion when the child allegedly used the foul language, Hodge was said to have given her the noxious substance to gargle. Stephens-Gordon said Hodge did not mean any harm to the child, she merely thought it was an acceptable method since it was suggested by her superior.

Nonetheless, Stephens-Gordon said Hodge is remorseful and accepts full responsibility for her actions as she should have used better judgment before taking action.

Her lawyer asked the court for a merciful sentence and noted Hodge is willing to compensate the victim for any medical expenses that were incurred from the incident. She also said her client was willing to pay compensation upwards of $2,000 for any emotional distress the incident caused.

Stephens-Gordon also asked for community service instead of a custodial sentence. The maximum penalty for the offence is six months imprisonment or a fine of $500.

Properly rehabilitated

The attorney argued that her client could be properly rehabilitated into society and her intelligence could be of service to various organisations in the territory through volunteerism.

Stephens-Gordon told the court Hodge did counselling sessions to gauge her mental and psychological state and the Social Inquiry Report indicates she accepted full responsibility for the act and acknowledged she should have exercised better judgment at the time. Stephens-Gordon further noted that the report did not indicate any criminal intent behind the educator’s actions but rather negligence.

Character witness

The attorney also brought a character witness to testify on the behalf of Hodge. Bernadine Walters-Louis, who is the Director of the Virgin Islands Studies Institute at the H Lavity Stoutt Community College (HLSCC) described Hodge as a congenial and hardworking lady.

She noted she has known Hodge for her entire life and over the past year she has withdrawn because of the incident. She also begged the court to be merciful in sentencing and not impose a custodial sentence as Hodge has seen the error in her judgment.

Stephens-Gordon also submitted three written character witness statements to the court.

They were Marvel Wheatley-Dawson, Dean of the Workforce Training Division at HLSCC, Dr Janet Smith, former HLSCC President and Kimberly Anthony, a teacher.

The court was adjourned until January 24, 2022, for sentencing.


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