Acting Deputy Principal of the Government Industrial School, Seilest Bradshaw, speaking to the media following a tour to view the renovations in progress at the Dodds, St. Philip facility. (T. Barker/BGIS)

There was no attempted suicide by a female ward at the Government Industrial School (GIS).

Minister of Home Affairs and Information, Wilfred Abrahams, and GIS’ acting Deputy Principal, Seilest Bradshaw, indicated this, following a tour to view the renovations in progress at the Dodds, St. Philip facility.  This was in response to reports circulating over the weekend of an attempted suicide by a female ward of the GIS.

Ms. Bradshaw stated: “There was an incident which occurred, I’m not at liberty to disclose the particulars, but what I can say is that once you are a ward at the school you are provided with normal toiletry, toothpaste, soap … everyday things that these children are using to do these things…. We are going to take those things now away and they will have to come for them when they need to use them.”

Minister Abrahams cautioned family members and the public about circulating unfounded reports.  “We need to be very careful…. At some point in time, the press and the public need to be a little bit reasonable in this, there is no way to stop somebody who wants to swallow some toothpaste … no way.

He disclosed that the young lady in question later stated that she had not ingested anything, and the toxicology report from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital confirmed such. 

Mr. Abrahams emphasised that several “stories” had been circulating about events surrounding wards of the GIS and “some of them have no basis in truth, no connection in truth”. 

He said these allegations cause family members and concerned citizens to run “to protect persons who may not be in need of protecting, [and] it places the staff and those concerned within the school in an untenable position”.

In addition, he said the Ministry and the GIS were not in a position, in many instances, when stories circulate to comment because it would involve disclosing information about minors that they were not in a position to disclose.

Both Minister Abrahams and Ms. Bradshaw shared that the protocol surrounding any threat of suicide involved the ward being taken to the Psychiatric Hospital for evaluation by a psychologist, where family members can easily access them and there are fewer restrictions in place. 

The acting Deputy Principal also mentioned that a new operations manual would be implemented, which would treat how “self-harm” reports are dealt with, among other things, and the institution does not view the wards as offenders.

“We see them as victims in most of these cases and we give them all the help that we can to make sure that they become well-rounded so that they can return to society and function well,” Ms. Bradshaw stated.

Adding to her comments, Minister Abrahams reported that everything is done to ensure that wards are immediately released from the institution once he has been notified that they are eligible for early release, so they can return to their family and friends in a better psychological and educational position than when they arrived.

“This is not a ministry that is slouching or sleeping on the job.  This is not a ministry that’s trying to penalise the children. This is not a ministry that is trying to make them career criminals; we’re trying to give them every possible chance, but the public and those who seem intent on their own narrative need to allow us the chance to actually work with these wards,” Mr. Abrahams stressed. 

sheena.forde-craigg@barbados.gov.bb

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