General — 09 November 2007 — by Anita Nembhard
Urbie Alamilla, 23, a former teacher, since he quit his job as of Monday, November 5, at the Ladyville Technical High School in Ladyville, is alleging that principal, Diane Westby, had no right to allow police officers, both male and female, to enter the compound to “discipline” the students last week Friday, November 2.
The action was as a result of “unacceptable behavior” by students on the compound, which has included the discovery of items such as ammunition, knives and other weapons, said Alamilla.
On Monday when we first spoke with principal Westby, she would not confirm or deny the allegations. “He (Alamilla) walked off the job. What he is saying did not happen…” said Westby.
She concluded by saying that, “We try to stay away from the media and try to be positive …”
But according to Alamilla, on Friday morning, November 2, sometime after 10:00, about four to five police officers visited the school to give what was referred to by the principal as “a talk.”
But there was no talk. Instead, some of the students were lined up outside in the school’s compound and made to do push-ups and jumping-jacks.
Because the students were rebellious about what they saw as punishment being executed by the officers, the exercise ended in one male student allegedly being lashed with a belt by a male officer, and a female student being slapped, allegedly by a female police officer.
Yesterday, one of the students who was forced to do the push ups, gave the newspaper a visit. The 16-year-old told us that Alamilla was not fabricating a story about what happened.
It did happen, said the 16-year-old. He told us that the principal threatened 15 of them yesterday. She came into the class and told them, “If you all go to the media about this incident, you will all be expelled.”
This happened after they had already gotten a call from this newspaper and a local television station, to whom the principal had already denied Alamilla’s allegations.
According to the student, they had been told that a policeman was coming to talk to them about his life, and how he survived.
Five minutes after they had gathered in the middle of the compound, two vehicles with police officers arrived – three men and a woman in uniform and one officer in civilian clothing.
They were told to put their bags far from them, and the officers began to search them.
One of the officers had a gun in the side of his waist, said the student.
Even the female students were being searched by the male officers, said the student.
During the search a dog from the Canine Unit sniffed the bags.
Nothing was found, and then 15 students’ names were called out from a list. They were told to come forward.
The officers then punished the 15 students – 8 males and 7 females.
According to Alamilla, these students were referred to by the school as “troublemakers, “bad eggs,” the ones who were usually giving trouble.
The male officers then ordered the male students to do push ups, and the female officer ordered the female students to do jumping jacks, said the student.
The males were told to first do ten push ups, and when that was done they were told to do 20 more, said the student.
“We were angry, but yet we did it,” said the student.
One boy who could not take the punishment anymore was hit with a belt on his foot, when it appeared he was not doing the push ups properly, said the student.
He then got up and left, but none of the officers went after him.
The reactions of the females were similar to the males, said the student.
A girl who just stood there, refusing to do as she was ordered, was approached by a female officer, who slapped her cheek, said the student.
The girl began to cry.
All this happened in the presence of the teachers and other students, said the student, who added that the punishment lasted for about an hour and a half before the officers left.
According to Alamilla, some of the students were told to report that evening to the Ladyville Police Station, where they were to do community work because of their bad behavior in school.
This student told us that the principal had told the entire school body that, “What happens at LTHS stays at LTHS.” (Ladyville Technical High School.)
During the alleged abuse, Alamilla said a teacher had taken pictures while police searched the students, but she refused when he approached her to get the pictures as evidence.
On Monday when we spoke with Westby, she said she would allow the newspaper to speak with two teachers, but only by telephone.
According to Alamilla, the teachers were outraged when they saw what was happening, but they chose not to do anything because they feared losing their jobs.