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Illicit CP - October 2001

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Trinidad Express, Port of Spain, 19 October 2001

Angry parents demand apology from principal

By Peter Balroop
East Bureau

ANGRY parents will visit Valencia High School this morning to see acting principal Francois Ottley to demand satisfaction for their children who are said to be still suffering from the trauma experienced in the wake of a valuable gold ID band owned by a student being stolen last Tuesday from the 2-10 classroom.

TTUTA president Trevor Oliver says he is moving to discover more about the incident from the trade union's staff representative at the institution.

And the police were up to yesterday still looking for the elusive thief in a bid to recover the band, said to be worth around $5,000.

The band, along with other items of jewelry seized by class teacher Dianne Aleong, was reportedly stolen from the teacher's desk by an unknown student while her back was turned.

She had temporarily confiscated the items for safekeeping to enforce the strict school rule imposed by principal Gloria Maharaj, that the only jewelry items to be worn by either male or female students were earstoppers or wristwatches.

In the wake of the ID band going missing and the police being called in to investigate the theft, relations between students, parents and members of the school's staff have deteriorated rapidly.

And at the centre of it all is Aleong, a recent addition to the school's staff.

Parents are demanding that she apologise for the trauma and embarrassment their children have been experiencing but acting principal Ottley is stoutly saying no, that she will lose the respect of the students if she does so.

PC Guevara from the Valencia police post came to the school and searched the children of the class on Tuesday and then force marched them down to the station where, reportedly, they were searched again and questioned.

One student, Jason Villafana, was reportedly forced to take down his trousers and spanked on his buttocks by an officer because he was making jokes in the station.

She said several mothers and fathers of children in Aleong's 2-10 class have expressed dissatisfaction about Tuesday's incident and the aftermath on Wednesday and have decided to visit the school with their children.

Efforts to contact Hazel Ifill, acting Education Ministry communications specialist, for comment on the tense situation at the school were unsuccessful.

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