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Principal defends school in court

Kalmar Richards was responding to questions from former CedarBridge teacher Karen Clemons in court

The principal of CedarBridge Academy has told the Supreme Court that teachers are adequately appraised of the educational and behavioural needs of students in their class.

Kalmar Richards was responding to questions from former CedarBridge teacher Karen Clemons, who has claimed that staff were kept in the dark about the needs of pupils.

Ms Clemons is suing the Ministry of Education because she claims she developed post-traumatic stress disorder from teaching at the Devonshire secondary school between 2000 and 2006.

Yesterday, she quizzed Ms Richards about what information was provided to teachers about their pupils in their class.

“We provide students with support based on the resources we have, but we could always use additional resources,” said Ms Richards.

“Teachers would be informed which students are on Individual Educational Programmes. The extent of what is disclosed to them is under the guidance of a guidance counsellor.

“The teacher will not receive all the information about students, but they would be given information about IEP and academic needs, provided we have received that information.”

Ms Clemons, who is representing herself, claimed she had made her concerns about CedarBridge well known and had copied in Ms Richards on e-mails highlighting areas that caused her problems.

She asked Ms Richards why she had not replied in person to the issues she had raised including the disclosure of pupil’s educational and behavioural needs and pupils being “dumped” in classes without consideration given to their abilities.

Ms Richards repeatedly told Ms Clemons that the structure of the school meant that “leaders” and “supervisors” were responsible for responding and addressing the concerns she raised, and it was not her direct responsibility to respond in person.

“Based on the structures we have in place I work through the leaders in the building,” she added.

Ms Clemons asked the principal if she was aware that “dissatisfied” teachers took part in sit-ins, protests and surveys over concerns at student behaviour in the first three years she worked at the school. Ms Richards replied: “I remember there were concerns about student behaviour, most of which took place soon after CedarBridge opening in 1997. We merged and took in students from all walks of life with a range of abilities and needs. They were challenging years.”

She added: “I am pleased to report we continue to work to meet the needs of our students and continue to show improvements.”

Ms Clemons also referred the principal to an incident at the school where her car was towed and chained up for seven hours, after which she wrote a memo to Ms Richards.

Ms Clemons said: “It felt like the whole issue was aimed at myself and I hoped for a response from you. I presented my position that I felt victimised, singled out and humiliated by the whole process.”

Ms Richards replied: “I just know what I was told, which was that you refused to move your car from a fire lane.”

At the end of her evidence yesterday, Chief Justice Ian Kawaley asked Ms Richards about what efforts had been made to address concerns raised by Ms Clemons.

The Chief Justice said: “You have been questioned about the high number of students with challenges in her class and you said Miss Duke was the leader that was responsible for that matter. I am curious whether you have knowledge whether these concerns were addressed.”

Ms Richards replied: “Based on ongoing conversations with leaders they would update me with work they were doing, but Miss Duke would be the best person to speak to as issues arose with learning support students.”

The Chief Justice went on saying: “Was there ever any change in policy of what information was given about special needs students to teachers at any point. You give the impression that the problems existed in the early years at CedarBridge but had receded. I’m curious as to what your explanation is as to why they have receded.”

Ms Richards responded: “Over the years we have put many interventions in place for students to be more successful. We endeavour to structure and organise things differently for them and we are experiencing success.”

• It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. As we are legally liable for any slanderous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.