CCTV planned for Lighthouse School

| 11/06/2015 | 14 Comments

(CNS): Education officials are planning a list of changes at Grand Cayman’s special needs school, including the installation of cameras to keep an eye on what is happening there following the exposure of a catalogue of shocking behavior at the school by educators. From teachers impersonating the students and a complete lack of sensitivity towards the children to neglect and even bullying, a report revealed serious shortcomings at the Lighthouse School in George Town, where some of the country’s most vulnerable young people attend.

Cayman News Service

Lighthouse School, Grand Cayman

The revelations came in a report which was the result of investigation in the wake of complaints by parents that staff were not only poorly supervising their children but were also being abusive. The report found that students “are not consistently treated with respect and care and may be treated roughly and inappropriately by some staff members”.

Given the number of failings, the Education Ministry released a statement yesterday outlining the action that it is taking to address the myriad issues that have been raised about the quality of teaching and supervision at the school. It is also understood that the head teacher has been retired.

Questions over supervision and behavior have led education officials to begin the process of installing CCTV “to enhance the safety of students, staff and all others on school premises”, the ministry said in a release on Wednesday.

“In order to ensure that camera usage meets best-practice criteria for safety and privacy the ministry has developed a draft policy for video surveillance in schools. Once the draft policy is approved by the Education Council, the ministry will be carrying out consultation with key stakeholders, including parents, prior to cameras being introduced,” the ministry said.

Faced with the revelations that teachers were involved in games impersonating students and allegations of bullying, the ministry stated that the “mistreatment of students is of grave concern” and that “clear protocols and procedures” were now in place and staff had not only gone through sensitivity training regarding the student needs but also the legal requirement regarding child protection matters.

“All staff has been re-trained about child protection prevention and procedures as well as their duties with regards to child protection reporting in line with the Children’s Law,” officials said, adding that staff have also had de-escalation and safe management training to support them in managing student behaviour appropriately.

The investigations at the school, which exposed some of the serious problems, appears to have highlighted the fact that some teachers and staff do not appear to be qualified to, or able to cope with,  the specialized teaching required for the range of challenges that students at the school have, including physical, learning, emotional and cognitive disabilities.

“We recognise that the Lighthouse School has students with a wide range of learning disabilities who may also present with challenging behavioural difficulties as a result of their disability,” the ministry said. “The school has received support to review the whole-school behaviour management procedures and their school discipline and student behaviour policy to ensure it is sensitive to the needs of the students. Part of this review has led to the introduction of a Behaviour Intervention Team that will lead on the development of the school policy as well as be able to offer support and appropriate intervention where students are having difficulties.”

Concerned about the seriousness of the issues raised in the complaints, the ministry said it wanted to assure the community and stakeholders that the issues have been addressed “through a rigorous support plan”.

While there are teachers, the officials stated, that promote a positive, safe and appropriate environment for the children, the goal was to ensure good practice was consistent and measures were being taken to resolve the issues identified.

“With the numerous changes already made, and the initiatives that will be put in place over the next few months, we will continue to see improvements in the educational experience of the students attending the Lighthouse School,” the officials stated.

COMPLAINTS RESPONSE REPORT – Lighthouse School, 5 November 2014

Statement regarding the Lighthouse School Complaints Report 10 June 2015

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Comments (14)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    There are many dedicated, hard working and passionate teachers at the school who work their hardest to ensure that the students have the best opportunities and support that they deserve. There will always be staff in any organization who are unprofessional/ or inept. It is the responsibility of senior leaders to deal with these individuals using the performance management system. Unfortunately, the truth is that this is not happening. This is a system wide problem and the Department for Education and the Government should be held accountable. It is very unfortunate that as a result of a minority the majority has to suffer due to the inefficiency of the system.

  2. Michelle M. McTggart says:

    Again, yet another post of damning the parents who are the very ones who stood up for these kids by one teacher who is obviously upset of the issues she did not know we’re happening. And, she continues to blast untruths backed by no facts on FB and now CNS against the one set of parents who had backbones to make a report themselves and put their names to it to make a safer environment. Why won’t she put her name? I’m not sure. She wasn’t afraid to do so on FB. Why is she standing up now and not while all the neglect and abuse allegations were brought forward? She has remained silent until now?
    And it is true that she sees nothing wrong with impersenating the kids for a prize – she says it was done in love, not making fun of them. I understand what she is trying to say, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that the teachers love their students. There is just a HUGE problem of them not seeing that what they did in a closed public setting is so insensitive. This is 2015. We do not do this to our disabled people. And she is under some disillusion that only myself was offended. I did not misquote or amplify anything that happened that night. She should read the complaint. I will say here, as I said to her – would you have played that game in front of the parents of the children that were being “imitated” that night? Probably not.
    As my child attends there, I applaud all the teachers and other parents who stepped forward and voiced their concerns and complaints, even if some of you didn’t feel safe to put your face to them. They are now seeing what happens when you do. I didn’t at first either, afraid of the back lashing I would get there. I’m already being there. My backbone is getting stronger, and I know that because we were the only ones who would go all the way and fight for change (the Ed Dept is known to force a “wait it out” game I hopes of sweeping it under the rug) that we are the only people that they can take their anger out on. So be it. We did what was right & now a safer environment for all at LHS is happening. I do include teachers as well, as sometimes they may be falsely accused of neglect or abuse.
    I do feel sorry that the other media outlets putting focus on an incident that happened almost 3 years ago and not actually what the bigger problem is (as the “game” was handled internally) and not about how long it took the Ministry and Education Dept took to address it. We were not in control of what focus they chose. It wasn’t the focus we wanted or hoped for either as ours was on the lacking a of the Ministry and Ed Dept not the “game”.
    There are some incredible, amazing teachers at LHS, including this teacher who is obviously upset at the attack as of late lumping all the teachers together – which was never the case. Hopefully she will calm down, stop blasting her anger out on people who do not deserve it and focus on all the positive changes that are happening at LHS and rest with her clear conscience that she has her heart in the right place, and was an innocent bystander unknowing of the neglect and abuse (by some) that was happening there.
    Just for the record, I have offered to meet with her to discuss this matter in private and clear up any concerns, misguided info, or misunderstandings she has. She is basing her whole personal attacking on myself and Kent not knowing the whole story, and on things that are simply not true. This is just sad, as the focus is being swayed from what is truly important, our students.

  3. Anonymous says:

    As a teacher and supporter of the Lighthouse school I would first like to begin by saying you shouldn’t get yourselves caught up in how the media portrays a situation. You should also note that it is one set of parents, of one child who continue to send their child here with the apparent comfort that he is well taken care. Additionally, these parents continue to pour in time and resources into a school that they apparently find inadequate. They are quick to smile in our faces and tell us what a great job we do however have managed to paint a different picture once outside these walls.

    These same parents have allowed a foreign teacher to rally with them in the attack on this particular school. Would you be surprised if I told you that this same foreign teacher has a proven record of disrespecting her colleagues time and time again, lacks proper communication skills and because of her complaints has been given options of where she would like to go next year. Will I be shocked when I hear she is doing the same thing at her new location….surely not.

    Yes we have our issues but so does every school. We always can improve. There is no perfect school or organisation. We do not lack supervision here we lack enough staff to bear the load. Every staff member here is on watch at all times. We have eyes in places we didn’t know we had eyes. This is an issue we have complained about for years! This is an issue for the ministry not for one particular school. There is not one person that can work in this environment and not work hard every single day. We very well may have support staff who are not qualified in special needs but who are willing and passionate about their jobs. From what I understand the requirements regarding qualifications are being revamped. But do we really stress on qualifications more than passion and heart for learning to do a job well? Is this an issue just in education? Certainly not, how many persons do you have working in other fields that are not qualified for a post but can be properly trained and developed should they show the desire to be. There are always bad apples in the bunch and that is across the system. These people are usually the ones who don’t get their way and then set out on a personal vendetta.

    The attack on this school over a misinterpretation of a game that was not mocking or bullying our students regarding their disabilities has gone too far. I am a mother. I have children. I mimic funny things my children do all the time. Funny statements or mannerisms that distinguish them from everyone else because they are special and are memorable for me. My students hold a place in my heart just like my own children do and while I was not a participant but an observer in the game I can assure the public that no one mimicked anyone’s mannerisms related to their disability. Do you really expect that we work with children all year long and they won’t do things to make us laugh or say things that we find funny? Even their very own laugh could put joy in our hearts and maybe they are well known in the school for their laugh. Maybe they are well known for the way they call a teachers name. Maybe they are well known for certain things they love the most like that song that they always choose to sing. These are just a few examples and how are these related to their disabilities? Or how can this be misinterpreted?

    It is scary to me how some of the most underpaid professionals that certainly aren’t here for the money can be labeled as such villains. Even scarier that persons/parents with no experience in education, special needs or management of a school feel they know how the place can be run. I agree get rid of the bad apples. But many times it is bad apples who come here and expect that we conform to their opinions or beliefs. When we don’t its complaints of unfair treatment. Isn’t this a problem in many businesses across this country? Then we have the powers that be appeasing their complaints with an entire investigation into a school. A school I might add that has been in operation for almost 40 years and have come a mighty long way! A school that from what I know has had no complaints against them in this manner from any other parents. Why not investigate all schools and soon you will realize that 1/3 of all of those investigations will turn up with negative results. However, this will be the only part the media chooses to highlight. The negativity. This is not a Caymanian vs. Expat rant because I have some amazing friends and colleagues who are non Caymanian. I have also learned some really valuable thiings from them as well. This is about the handful of expat teachers who are unable to adapt to this environment and their shock when they realize they don’t know all the answers. No…our education system is nothing like the one you came from? Shocking! If it was so wonderful there why are you here? Do your job, which is to ensure the success of every student you teach and stop trying to get ahead by false accusations or your own version of bullying. In a year or two you will be back home and you will leave behind you a trail of destruction all because you wanted it to be like home.

    I wonder if the parents involved that have spear headed this witch hunt feel good about the amount of slander, disrespect and bullying they themselves have done to the majority of wonderful teachers/staff here. I wonder if they understand the ramifications on teacher morale for those who have dedicated so much love and time into these children. This is a direct attack on everyone who works in this school. I will not stand for the complete disregard of my reputation or that of anyone else I would gladly vouch for.

    Mr. McTaggart you should be ashamed of yourself to have the media paint the school that you continue to send your child to in this light. If you have anything positive to say you should make it public or stop with this harassment. If your goal is to do an entire sweep of this school and push the wonderful teachers/staff out you may get your wish and then how will we open the doors? Where are your qualifications to be able to teach here because it seems as though you have all the answers. Where are your qualifications to manage this school? Do you think you are the only outspoken Caymanian with an opinion on our education system? Do you think that because you misinterpreted a non malicious game that the whole country must answer to you? Please stick to what you do best, being a parent and husband. If your son were to ever be mistreated you can set the place a blaze! Most importantly how do you even know the same staff member you are in cahoots with isn’t the one being accused of mistreating students? Please have a seat while we get back to taking care of our students and our school!

    Very disappointed and hurt teacher

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you for your contribution which has shed some light on the situation. Its a pity that you do not feel comfortable enough to put your name to the post. I don’t blame you because we all know how quickly you would be marginalized for daring to open your mouth.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Impersonating the students??? Really? That must have been a good ol’ laugh!

  5. SSM345 says:

    Is this the same CCTV already installed throughout Cayman that doesn’t work?

  6. A. Skilpot says:

    “It is also understood that the head teacher has been retired” ?! Just the head teacher? There should be more heads than that rolling! Many more.
    This is atrocious!
    This is an example to all parents – listen to what your children tell you and be their advocate. You don’t have to be aggressive, but investigate and be firm.

    This story makes my stomach turn. I hope there will be more done than installing cameras! Sounds more like a case for dismissals, demotions and reprimands to me!

    • Anonymous says:

      IF these ‘highly’ trained, qualified teachers FOR students with special needs behave like this, can you all now imagine how the majority of teachers in public schools behave?

      These teachers knew their students were subject to challenges from day one and needed the utmost sensitivity and they chose to teach and our Chief Education Officer approved these teachers. Why should we waste money on additional training?

      Fire them and hire new teachers so that the students can feel they are really being protected and have a fresh start. Let these teachers go back home and stop making a mockery of our children just for a pay check, they simply don’t care.

      Surprised the teachers didn’t say it was the parents’ fault….. oh but it was the concern of parents that helped to push this and seek justice for their child!!

      Maybe the CEO, Ms Monteith can start placing CCTV inside classrooms of JGHS and SJACPS where the principals and teachers are clearly keen on watching students behave like animals and carry their cultures from countries of origin.

      • Anonymous says:

        No it does not mean that this is going on in all public schools. The important thing is that young people at Lighthouse are vulnerable and do not necessarily have a way to communicate their concerns which is the opposite in public schools for the majority of young people. So stop trying to tar the whole system.

  7. Anonymous says:

    surely a report on such a shambolic failure of performance equates to treason against the people of cayman!!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      You really dont get understand the new meaning of the word treason as described by McLaughlin. On second thoughts you don’t even understand the original use of the word!

  8. Anonymous says:

    another glorious day for the cayman islands civil service……

  9. Anonymous says:

    It usually comes down to lack of leadership. Put the right leader in place, based on ability not nationality, well trained and supported staff and you will see an enormous difference. I have concern that the introduction of CCTV is not in the children’s best interest but is a knee jerk over reaction. This is not to make light of the difficulties within that setting. Fire anyone that has been involved in any of incidences and replace them with people who genuinely want to work in the field and know something about it. Lack of trust is a crippling thing and will in the end damage relationships.

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