‘No nine-day wonder’
Early Childhood Commission chair wants alleged child-beater charged
WESTERN BUREAU: Chairman of the Early Childhood Commission, Trisha Williams-Singh, is pressing for the prosecution of the perpetrator of an alleged beating of a three-year-old that triggered the closure of a Mount Salem preschool last week....
Chairman of the Early Childhood Commission, Trisha Williams-Singh, is pressing for the prosecution of the perpetrator of an alleged beating of a three-year-old that triggered the closure of a Mount Salem preschool last week.
Williams-Singh confirmed to The Gleaner that the regulator’s executive director, Nicoleen DeGrasse-Deslandes, has been dispatched to ensure that the school remains closed.
“The Early Childhood Act of 2005 is clear … . Section 16 speaks to corporal punishment, which shall not be inflicted on a child in an early childhood institution,” the commission chairman said, adding that no mechanical or electrical device must be used to restrain infants.
Williams-Singh said that immediately after receiving the report of abuse, an inspector visited the school and the findings corroborated video footage of the incident.
“This is not going to be a nine-day wonder because I expect Mrs Deslandes to follow up with the OCR to follow up with the parents of the child in the video to see if they would like to press charges,” she warned.
The OCR is the Office of the Children’s Registry.
Williams-Singh has urged Jamaicans to report child abuse to the commission before releasing videos on social media.
Evidence of abuse reportedly forced Wayne Dixon to remove his three-year-old daughter from preschool hours after dropping her off on her first day at the early childhood institution.
“She had obviously been beaten, but she is unable to speak, so she couldn’t confirm. However, we saw welts on her hands,” he told The Gleaner Sunday.
Dixon is one of several parents who now regret enrolling their children at the New Discoveries Preschool and Daycare, which was ordered closed by the Ministry of Education last Thursday following the beating of a three-year-old infant.
A video of the beating, which was filmed and released by former caregiver Latoya Gray-Allen, has since gone viral on social media. The child seen in the video was beaten with a ruler in a bathroom away from the school’s surveillance cameras.
Calls to Marcia Whyte, who operates the school, have not been answered.
Gray-Allen has since followed up with a series of voice notes naming seven other children who were allegedly abused at the school, including the son of Montego Bay-based radiologist Dr Brenda Barnes Palmer.
Barnes Palmer said that she has not been able to sleep well since learning of the reported punishment her son endured.
“I have been trying, but I keep jumping up out of my sleep. It has been devastating,” she said, breaking down shortly after, citing concern about the potential trauma this may cause her son.
The medical practitioner said she did not notice anything wrong with the child until last November when he kept crying whenever they arrived at the school gate.
“He didn’t want to come out the car seat. Try to put him over the fence, he is still crying, and early December, the same thing,” the mother said in a Gleaner interview.
Barnes Palmer acknowledged that she did not notice any scratches or bruises on her three-year-old.
Gray-Allen stated in a voice note that the children beaten were either non-verbal or autistic.
“So they don’t understand what is happening. They don’t interact like a regular child,” said Barnes Palmer.
New Discoveries has been operating from Catherine Mount in Mt Salem, St James, since 2021, but the school was previously located in Westgate Hills.
Deslandes told The Gleaner that parents of the 63 students enrolled at the school agreed at a meeting last Friday that the institution should be closed.
An online meeting between parents and the school administrators scheduled for Saturday afternoon was postponed.
Residents of the Catherine Mount community are also breathing a sigh of relief regarding the school’s closure.
Sabrina Coke, who lives next door, was miffed at the traffic congestion and noise that affected her family at daytime.
“My son, who is doing his high-school studies, has been feeling it the most. He is having a difficult time studying, and if he studies until late, he can’t sleep late because as early as 7 a.m., the noise starts,” Coke said.
Another neighbour, who requested anonymity, cited concerns about the school’s disciplinary protocols.
“When you hear babies sounding hysterical, something is happening,” she said.