Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Pallotti's Scarlet Letter

The issue of teenage pregnancy is a controversial social ill that infects communities across the world. Yet, the procedural mechanisms employed by these societies to rectify this problem not only illustrate the ideological diversity from country to country, but it can also serve as a quantifiable measure of the efficacy of current means to solve a prevalent social enigma. The recent story on Pallotti High School's ironclad rule on teenage pregnancy (and teenage relationships in general) not only serves to further this discussion, but it also presents an example of the understated friction between rule and law.

Allegedly, Pallotti's rule on teenage pregnancy is straight-forward: any student suspected of bearing or carrying a child will be expelled upon confirmation of such an offense. (I admit, I was unable to ascertain whether it is an immediate expulsion or merely a suspension, but this article assumes the former.) From Pallotti's perspective, the issue over of the recent controversy is indisputable; students (should) know the rules before their enrollment and failure to comply with these rules will result in appropriate punishment. For many others, however, myself included, I question whether the punishment in this case was indeed appropriate and whether the rule stands in contrast to a child's constitutional right to privacy and education.

The majority of our parents grew up in a time when this issue warranted little debate. An appropriate level of punishment in previous decades would not only result in the immediate expulsion of the student, but additionally, a merciless scourging for the dark shroud of embarrassment that the family must endure. This social denigration that the young female experiences is what Nathaniel Hawthorne essentially described in his 1850 novel, "The Scarlet Letter". One can argue that, one hundred and fifty years later, Pallotti's rule emblazons its own version of Hawthorne's scarlet letter by shunning females away from its institution and denying them a right to an education. On the contrary, many have and will undoubtedly agree with such a rule. They have and will claim that because this child knowingly broke the school's sacrosanct rule, that she deserves to be removed, not the least because it disrupts the Pallottine image of the school and may set a bad example for other students. This rule, of course, is aligned with the teachings of St. Vincent Pallotti, the school's namesake, who preached that "The love of Christ impels us [to love and serve one another". This rule, of course, is also aligned with the school's stated mission in its current expansion project which states ironically, "The role that Pallotti High will further play in alleviating these societal ills is by affording an education to as many young Belizean girls and women as possible" in an effort to mitigate "vicious cycles of poverty, teenage pregnancy, illiteracy rate and other social and economic problems crippling the Belizean society." As opposed to finding ways to counsel their students in times of desperation - when they need it the most - the school opts to punish without any level of recourse. This in no way can deliver the mechanisms needed to aleviate this problem. Instead, it only exacerbates the situation by making life for an already-burdened young woman even more unbearable. How appropriate.

Finally, with regard to the legality of the rule, the issue is far clearer. Pallotti simply has no case, as revealed by the recent court decision to reinstate the child back into the classroom. If the Pallottine Sisters in Belize feel so strongly for this rule on chastity, then they should do what many other Pallotine schools do across the world, and that is to fund the institution themselves. In that way, it is a private entity that can legitimately enforce its rule. However, Pallotti High School in Belize is a public institution that is beholden to the government. In turn, the government is a people's institution beholden to the constitution. Therefore, it is unequivocal that the government's public institution's must, must reflect the will of the people. And the will of the people can only be found in one place: in the little yellow book used in primary school Social Studies classes around the country, entitled "How We Are Governed", also known as the Constitution. The rights of the child, reflected in our laws, wholly speaks against the discrimination of children and protects them against any form of punishment that retracts a fundamental right, such as their education. On all questions of legality, the answer is that Pallotti's rule, like many other school rules in the Belizean educational system, violates the law of the land.

As always, comments from all angles are appreciated.

44 comments:

Charmaine said...

I am a female who attended a school w/ similar rules. I am in favour of the student being expelled for that year. I feel as if one is allowed to march around w/ a bun in the oven what is to stop other students from doing so. Our teen pregnancy is low compare to others and the reason for that is the ironclad that these high school has inforced. Don't break them down.

kalilah said...

The sad irony of the practice of expelling a young woman from school when she gets pregnant is that that is the time she most needs an education. Not allowing young women to finish school only perpetuates the cycle of teenage pregnancy. With a child to raise and no education, the odds become stacked against the mother's child. As for the comment that allowing a pregnant girl to remain in school will encourage other girls to get pregnant, now really, I didn't know that pregnancy was a style. My experience is that pregnant girls in school are more often pitied, or sympathized with, than emulated.

creolegial said...

I am behooved to comment on this issue, since I am a graduate of Pallotti High School. There are several points which need clarification. The claimant's lawyer got on Channel 5 and stated that some rules are illegal and discussed in some length, the rule which states that girls suspected of being pregnant will be expelled. However, that rule has no relevance in this case, since the claimant is NOT pregnant, nor has she been questioned in regards to that rule. Perhaps the lawyer simply wanted to sensationalize the entire thing since ideas regarding teenage pregnancy and teenage rights are such a touchy, touchy topic. Nevertheless, the issue at hand is whether she should be expelled, (and you can go to the courts and ask to read the injunction since it is a public document) because she received a second suspension.
This resulted from an altercation which a woman caused after SHE made her way onto the school grounds, went to the claimant's class, violently pointed her out and demanded that the claimant quit fooling around with her husband! The teachers and other students were put at risk when this woman came onto our compound. The rules state that two suspensions equal and expulsion. The claimant had one previous suspension for another incident, and was being given a second suspension.
The issue is whether this student was given a fair opportunity to plea her case in front of the school board- a constitutional right, which, as her lawyer claims, has been violated.
I am for equal rights and such, but I stand by the fact that we must make choices. Her choice or any other young lady's choice to attend a school which frowns upon pre-marital relations is her own. We must draw the line somewhere. Do what you want after you leave the school, and you may say that I am biased)but I don't feel that we should think it folly for a school to dare to ask young women to consider maintaining high moral and academic standards.

The Voice said...

There are so many threads that I can follow after reading this blog.

First of all, I agree with Creolegial. The student is not pregnant, and this issue has nothing to do with pregnancy.

In life we make choices. She chose to attend a school with certain strict rules. True, those rules have NOTHING to do with her education directly, but the mission of the school is not ONLY focused on her academic development, but her development socially and spiritually. By attending that school, she verbally signed a contract saying, "I will abide by these rules" She only has to do it for 4 years. A short short time in comparison of a lifetime.

I attended an institution with similar rules. I didn't agree with all of them, but I abided by them. Then I graduated. And, I'll tell you the truth, the day after graduation, I started to disobey those rules.

Children need rules. They need guidance so that they may be socialized into good citizens.

I'm with Palotti on this one. If this case is won by her, it's telling all high school students that they don't have to listen to the rules of their institution, and they can drink, smoke, and have sex all they want.

Rules are there for a reason.

Darwin said...

I pray for the day when we all take responsibility for our actions as parents, educators, and as human beings. Yes the child should not be cast out of the school system for her present circumstance but given an alternative coarse to achieving the final goal which is an education. No the school didn't have the right to give that child such an ultimatum in their quest to find out her status (pregnant or not). I believe they did overstep their bounds and also the parents should also bear their fair share of responsibility by educating their child a long time ago and on a constant basis about the upshot of pregnancy. As a people, we have to realize that we are in a new age and things are not the same anymore. The schools and all other major institutions have to accept this change and find ways to adopt with this change. There will be a few that will be lost along the way but it is up to us as EDUCATED people (and not the OLD COLONIALIZE MINDED) to realize this and create an alternative for such an error in judgment. It’s an error in judgment not their downfall and all errors can be made whole again. Just my thought.

Democrates said...

She did choose to attend this school and by doing so, she implicitly agreed to follow the school's rules. But again, the rules that the child follows MUST be aligned with the law. In this case, their rule on teenage pregnancy clearly violates that. I am all for the development of both the academic and spiritual aspects of a student. Believe it or not, both can be achieved without expelling the student. I think St. Catherine Academy finds the right balance. If a young woman is pregnant, she is asked to leave the school, not as punishment, but simply because it is not the safest or the most appropriate environment for her. After having the child, the young woman is allowed to re-enter school and finish her education. That, in my opinion, is social justice. But kicking someone when they are on the ground is a grave offense and accomplishes nothing.

Trazidex said...

Best article you ever wrote Dem.

The churches/ religious orders in Belize want their cake and want to eat it too.

they want to impose their morals using the public's purse.

Anonymous said...

Excellent and very eloquent article democrates. Teenage pregnancy is a highly controversial topic and will remain as such for a very long time due to the inherent nature of the issue and the "friction between rule and law".

There seems to be two perspectives with which to choose sides on this particular instance.

With regards to the matter of legality, Pallotti High School is a public institution which ultimately is a jurisdiction governed by the state. Given the mandate issued by the Ministry of Education to reinstate the child, this proves that their interpretation of the law is that the expulsion of that student is unconstitutional.

On the other hand, one must respect the rules of the school. If the school states that active students are not allowed continue their studies during pregnancy, whether on a leave of absence or blatant expulsion, then those are the rules you should abide by. Obviously, this topic is highly controversial and abiding by these rules in our Belizean society has proven over the years to be a difficult rule to abide by for a handful of students. In the end, rules of the institution should be respected.

Now, in my opinion, I feel it is a good rule to have a pregnant student to leave the school during the term of her pregnancy and be allowed to return to school after. Denying a child their right to education is not only ludicrous, but prevents society to collectively expand and grow it's mental capacity. It is only logical to assume that as the mother and child get older, her chances of finishing school become incessantly difficult.

Alas, times change, societies evolve and thus rules must adapt accordingly.

Anonymous said...

I must say I am a bit confused after reading these posts... is this about a pregnant high school student? If so, it seems simple -- no suspension or expulsion!

We mandate that mothers are given BENEFITS from the workplace, to make certain that they and their young children have an opportunity for happy and healthy lives. We can do no less for a mother who also happens to be a student. It is about the good of our society.

Brent said...

First let me say that I agree with the original poster, that these school policies should be considered a violation of a person's rights and liberties. However, if you look at the constitution there are specific loopholes that may allow for a person's rights and liberties to be suspended:

Section 5 says that a person's liberties can be suspended "under the order of a court or with the consent of his parent or guardian, for his education or welfare during any period ending not later than the date when he attains the age of eighteen years"

And section 13 says that a person's right to assembly and freedom of association can be removed with his own consent (ie. a code of conduct contract), or "that is required in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health"

Personally, I think the wording is to vague to stand up to a serious challenge, and nowhere in the constitution do I see who is deemed the arbiter of what constitute "public morality".

Section 5 also deals with the suspension of liberty on the suspicion of a person being about to commit a crime. This was the PM's basis for his proposed idea of preventative detention which was defeated when public opinion was demonstrated to be strongly opposed to that idea.

So the bigger issues that must first be dealt with in order to challenge these draconian conduct rules are these; is being pregnant while attending high school an offense against public morality? And is the removal of a pregnant student from school in the best interests of her education or welfare? Personally, I can't see where the answer can be yes to either question.

As to those who feel a pregnant student may somehow encourage other students to allow themselves to get pregnant, I say take your head out of the sand! Maybe if these pregnant girls were allowed to share the difficult experience of an unplanned, unwanted, and most often unsupported (at least by the father) pregnancy, then maybe they might actually serve as a deterrent to other Belizean teens who grow up being bombarded by this notion of "you are not a real woman until have pikni" or that a woman's worth can be measured by the ability of her womb to bear fruit! Let these kids see how tough it really is to be 16 and pregnant. Let them know exactly what happened to these girls that got them into their current situation. Let them be living examples of what happens when you have unprotected sex or allow yourself to be swept away by an older man who is only interested in using you. But let them continue their education so they have every chance of making the best possible life for them and their child.

And while we are at it, let's quit letting boys and men off the hook for knocking up these young girls!

The only thing we need less than more young single mothers in this country is more uneducated young single mothers. Yet the politicians who cower from nuns and refuse to stand up for our young women, are the same politicians who more than happy to pose for a photo op with the single mother of 5, who never finished her education, but was lucky enough to win a new stove at their mother's day raffle.

Democrates said...

Brent, my thoughts exactly. What gets lost in a discussion like this, as you rightly alluded to, is the lack of attention paid to the very same males who instigate these matters. Of course, it takes two to tango. But if it takes two, then if one gets punished, the other should too. Pallotti's rule, however, does not accomplish this.

Anonymous said...

It is a sad thing when a Catholic institution must be put into the spotlight for enforcing its doctrine. Did or did not the young lady in question (and her parents, for that matter) "read the fine print" when she was accepted into the school? Argument on this matter seems quite alive and relevant. But I think it is necessary for this matter to be argued from two distinct standpoints: the Ecclesiastical and the Constitutional. Is the crux of the matter steeped in religious wrong or legal wrong? The fact of the matter is that some people want to stand up against rules that have proven to be of more benefit than not instead of acknowledging that they are wrong. The purpose of going to school is not to get pregnant or, as it seems to be in this instance, to fornicate or become involved in adultery.

[Maybe the church ought to lay the law down on SCA. They cannot permit pregnancies to occur and then allow readmission. Unless the girls are over 18 and married. But they're not, now are they? It's not the Catholic thing to do, you see.]

The argument of right to an education is being wrongly argued. A Belizean does have the right to an education. But does it mean that that right is inalienable under ANY circumstances? Perhaps we should come to see that some of our laws are not realistic. I am not a lawyer nor a legislator so I can say so. The law ain't perfect.

Then we wonder why our society is breaking down. Maybe it's because our rules are too lax. Maybe there is no respect for rules because of this. I don't have the answers, but I think that those that are fortunate to have an education need rules to keep them in check. Those who have the luxury of an education (because that's what it is becoming, if not already is) need rules. I graduated from SJC high school so I know that rules are absolutely necessary to curb the lawless tendencies harboured by little rich brats who have everything they need and more.

Now, if the family of the young lady wanted to have her at a school where religion-based rules do not exist, maybe they should have tried a government school. Why not EP Yorke? Oh, but I don't think they would allow it either. Or would they?

Democrates said...

With regard to the last comment, you are right when you say that two wrongs are committed in this case, i.e. a religious wrong (school rule) and a constitutional wrong. However, the constitutional wrong PRECEDES the religious wrong by virtue of the fact that all rules and regulations of government institutions must, must reflect the privileges granted by our constitution. If you disagree with this, then argue for a constitutional amendment; until then, Pallotti originated this issue decades ago when it enacted this rule.

You say that the child should have gone to a government school, but she did! Pallotti is a government school. As I mentioned, Pallotti has every right to push for celibacy among its students. But if it seeks to expel them for this wrong and violate the rights of a child, then it should relinquish its public (i.e. government) status and transform itself into a private institution, funded on its own money. For example, in the United States, a secular-based country, Catholics have funded their own schools in order to promote their theory of Creationism, as opposed to the theory of evolution that is taught in ALL public schools across the country.

No one is attempting to do away with Pallotti's religious doctrine. They have all rights to keep it, just NOT while under government subsidization.

Democrates said...

Oh, and another perfect example: Scientology. They should have all rights as any other religious affiliation. BUT, they realize that the vast majority of their doctrine is not aligned with any constitution in the world. So what do they do? They fund all their schools and faith-based initiatives to circumvent potential constitutional infringements. Belize is one of the few countries where the government subsidizes almost all primary and secondary schools, while allowing them to promote their own doctrine. However, some schools such as Pallotti clearly take advantage of this financial support.

creolegial said...

I fully respect the views of the original post, but I do believe that it is imperative that we do not discuss this case (i.e. that pertaining to the recent court injunction) in relation to teenage pregnancy because THE CHILD IS NOT NOR HAS EVER BEEN QUESTIONED ABOUT BEING PREGNANT. Since we are being "politically correct", let's stick with the facts. Notice, and you can correct me if I am wrong, that the original post is based on the case that is presently before the supreme court and it alludes that Pallotti is expelling this child for being pregnant which is untrue. PLEASE READ THE INJUNCTION!
I would appreciate it very much if we could cease discussing this case in direct relation to the violation of a pregnancy rule.
And if I should look at these comments in regards to the pregnancy rule, I do agree with the comments by Anonymous and Brent- wholeheartedly so. However, I must ask, what is "denying the rights to an education"? One school is capable of denying ALL rights to an education? If there was only one high school in Belize City - P.H.S. and that school denies the right to an education, then I can fully understand.
Social justice"...hmmm...is an ambiguous concept which can be manipulated to go with either side of this argument. I'm wary of discussing this topic in terms of social justice.
Maybe I'm just from the "old school" and maybe I'm just plain ol' ignorant, but constitution or no constitution, we need to understand that more is at stake in our society, "more" meaning that we should focus on getting an education before we get pregnant or think about that.

Anonymous said...

Ithink that the institution have that policy written why make her break the policy. If they accept her again most student w ill tend to violate the school rules "if she wasn't expelled , we too won't be expelled if we smoke, drink have sex, etc";therefore, the school policy wil be violated by other students.They must stick to the policy as the girl knows it and why don't give up.

manuel said...

i am male person and my point of view about this situation is that i go against what the school allegedly has prompted. i understan trhe fact that the institution is a "Catholic" institution. Does the institution really knows that people make choices their way and not what others want. in life we make choices, and the choices we make in life might hurt others and others might rejioce. carring a foetus in you is one of the most beautiful gifts that a family can have. i see no reason why the institution would expell the individual as if though the individual has committed a crime. infact i recommend that thatpolicy that any female found pregnant would be expelled should be eliminated. what is the message being brought out here? you know a Catholic institution? where are the moral teachings they portray?what would happen to the young girl if she gets expelled? no education, less chances of having a good reputation for the workforce. well it seems that i am going against most commenters about this situation.case in piont, put yourself in her shoes would you want to be expelled from school just because you are pregnant? come on mien, she can still continue school and when the time comes for birth delivery then she can withdraw from school and come back the following semester.

Dee said...

I am a female presently attending Muffles Junior College and i believe that each individual are given all the codes of conducts and laws that should be respected when entering a particular institution so when those laws are broken a price must be paid. No has the justifiable right to point fingers but if the student is pardoned for doing an immoral act then that leaves opportunities for the upcoming generation to settle for mediocracy.Belizeans youths needs to think before they act then maybe they would not find themselves in situations that may tarnish the reputation of prestigious institutions and above all themselves.

Reina said...

this situation feels like being between the rock and a hard place. first of all palloti is a catholic institution and students are expected to live up that good name of being enrolled there. Its really hard to pick sides because as adolescents it is sometimes hard to overcome temptations. but then again the rules are to be abided by everyone at all times. when the rules are breeched then justice must be served. God Bless Belize

Angi said...

i am a female and i agree to most of the posted comments. First of all life is not fair, rules are there for a reason, we all have rights,and we all have to make decisions. many of us would usually argue that we are not being treated fairly, but what can we do? we can't change the past. As other commenters said, life and society is dynamic. we have to move on, and adapt to the many changes that life encounters and experiences. we are all human beings and no one is perfect. sometimes we don't learn from other's mistakes but from our own mistakes. However,the extent of the punishment will depend on the extent of the mistake or crime.in this case, my point of view is that this girl, didn't commit a crime. i agree that she violated the school rule, but that doesn't mean that that she should be kicked out of school. imagine if you were in this situation and you were expelled. what would you do?leaving aside that this girl is not pregnant, but only because of a previous situation and suspension, including the wife of a male with whom the girl awas said to be fooling around with,(marching to the school ground and throwing words at her. However, institutions have rules. each student are notified and given the rules and codes of conduct about the school. students are expected to comply to the rules and also sign a contract if they agree to abide by the rules of the institution. this girl knew the rules and still violated it.however, the no one has any right to judge other as the Bible sas. since they are Catholic institutions and they "abide by the Bible, why are they pointing fingers at another persons mistake. will it make any better sense if the girl is expelled and left uneducated and have to depend on other ways tosupport herself and her Child. in addition each of us have rights and freedom. no one can decide for us. we are not robots that we must do everything that someone tells us to. i believe that the girl should be allowed to go back to school after she has given birth to her child, and is safe to go bachk to school. i believ that rules must adapt to society as society changes and life goes on -different people have different opinions. this is my point of view.

Angi said...

i am a female and i agree to most of the posted comments. First of all life is not fair, rules are there for a reason, we all have rights,and we all have to make decisions. many of us would usually argue that we are not being treated fairly, but what can we do? we can't change the past. As other commenters said, life and society is dynamic. we have to move on, and adapt to the many changes that life encounters and experiences. we are all human beings and no one is perfect. sometimes we don't learn from other's mistakes but from our own mistakes. However,the extent of the punishment will depend on the extent of the mistake or crime.in this case, my point of view is that this girl, didn't commit a crime. i agree that she violated the school rule, but that doesn't mean that that she should be kicked out of school. imagine if you were in this situation and you were expelled. what would you do?leaving aside that this girl is not pregnant, but only because of a previous situation and suspension, including the wife of a male with whom the girl awas said to be fooling around with,(marching to the school ground and throwing words at her. However, institutions have rules. each student are notified and given the rules and codes of conduct about the school. students are expected to comply to the rules and also sign a contract if they agree to abide by the rules of the institution. this girl knew the rules and still violated it.however, the no one has any right to judge other as the Bible sas. since they are Catholic institutions and they "abide by the Bible, why are they pointing fingers at another persons mistake. will it make any better sense if the girl is expelled and left uneducated and have to depend on other ways tosupport herself and her Child. in addition each of us have rights and freedom. no one can decide for us. we are not robots that we must do everything that someone tells us to. i believe that the girl should be allowed to go back to school after she has given birth to her child, and is safe to go bachk to school. i believ that rules must adapt to society as society changes and life goes on -different people have different opinions. this is my point of view.

Guillermo said...

This girl is off her mind. She has no shame to go to court after what she has done. This girl should be ponished for her selfish act.

Democrates said...

everyone keeps saying that this girl broke a rule and that society needs rules and it would set a horrible example if a rule-breaker was re-admitted. But again, the rule is not legal to begin with. If Pallotti implemented a rule that no one can read any magazines that has vulgar language in it and they expel you because of breaking that rule, then that too is unconstitutional! Just because a rule is there does not mean that it is right and/or legal. Allowing Pallotti to implement school rules that conflict with our constitutional rights will set an even WORSE example for our society than re-admitting the girl.

Anonymous said...

unfortunately i'm pressed for time and unable to read all the posts. but what i've read so far is quite interesting.

i don't think anyone is questioning whether she should be allowed to be readmitted to school. in this day and age there is no question as to whether a teenage mother should be able to continue her education -she must. and i don't think that anyone is taking into account the fact that if a student is expelled from one school, another may be more than accommodating and enroll her to finish her education. i can think of many schools who do that for their students.

and i don't think that the school has any wrong in exacting what is an appropriate and reasonable punishment. i greatly appreciate what creolegial clarified -her possible expulsion is as a result of two suspensions which according to school rule equal and expulsion. that's a rule, end of story, and whether it was two fights with fellow students or with teachers or any other violation of school policy like having an angry woman storm into a classroom or like getting knocked up, it still amounts to two suspensions. which sometimes add up to an expulsion.

in all honesty i personally believe that catholic institutions can be and should be granted a certain amount of leeway regardless of who provides most of their funding -additionally belize most certainly is not a country with institutions that can afford to fund themselves so i don't think that it's fair to ask catholic institutions to compromise what are cornerstones of their faith and education simply because our population is unable to pay the fees that would be entailed in having a private institution.

(throwing in a total aside, i think that if we had more privately run religious schools able to enforce all the rules of their choice, a very large amount of the students if not all would end up being expelled for breaking school rules -smoking, drinking, clubbing, sex)

yes i'm aware of the forgiveness and mercy mumbojumbo as well as all the religions preachings as (like many belizeans) i attended a catholic high school, and i do fully believe in the importance of maintaining moral codes while tempering with forgiveness and mercy (clearly i am a minion of the sisters of mercy =), which is why i support the decision to ask the mother to leave school for a period of time -consider it maternity leave- with the very very clear understanding that she must be admitted to another institution to continue her education.

... one last thought ... what makes her expulsion so unconstitutional and other students' expulsions from school constitutional? i admit total ignorance to legal technicalities so someone please impart the exact reason why her expulsion in particular would be unconstitutional.

dajewel1982 said...

I definitely believe that the school and belizean society is going about the issue of teen pregnancy in the most unproductive manner. There should be more appropiate and open discussions about ways to prevent pregnancy, including abstinence, contraception, protection and tangible consequences. It is one thing to tell a child "no, don't do it" and it is another thing that the child understands the ramifications of "no, don't do it." If Palotti doesn't approve of teenage pregnancy, then I agree they should stop utilitzing public funds. However, they are using public funds and as such, their efforts to lower teenage pregnacy should be more inclusive by taking in all viewpoints (rather they like it or not) to help lower the rates. Nonetheless, parents need to sit down and have these frank, educational and honest discussions with their children.

belizean_gurl said...

Once again, the issue is NOT whether the student is pregnant. She ISN'T. The student has had 2 suspensions, which leads to an expulsion. It is true that the second expulsion may seem "unconstitutional", but do we ignore the first suspension? Without that first suspension, who's to say that she would have been expelled for this infraction? Clearly, this student has a problem following school rules.

The student violated the implicit contract she made w/ the school. If I am not mistaken, you are asked to sign a contract - or at least read the school's handbook - stating u will uphold the school's values (whether by stated rules or implicit moral codes) while attending the school. Why is this student being commended for breaking such a contract? Why is she be rewarded for breaking the school rules/moral code?

And of course, as another person posted, this child is NOT being denied an education. She is being denied re-entry to Palotti. There is nothing stopping her from going to another school. I don't blame the school for not wanting her on their campus, simply for matters of security.

Why put other students in danger b/c of one student? The wife of the man she was fooling around with came to the campus. She could have easily come with a gun or knife and attacked the student, and possibly harmed other students. Luckily she didn't. I agree that this student has the right to an education, but the other students on campus have an overwhelming right to safety.

Let us not blur the issues of this incident by bringing in unrelated issues of teen pregnancy. Although that is an important topic, it is one for another post. This student is NOT pregnant. She is being punished for not unholding the rules/moral code she promised to abide by when she decided to go to Palotti. We must teach our children that all actions have consequencens....Moreover, when we promise something, we should keep our word, and not find excuses for not doing so.

Brent said...

so in small change it boils down to a few issues (forget about pregnancy and sexual activity for a moment):

1. can a person sign away their rights and liberties?

2. should a publicly funded institution be allowed to set their own rules based on religious doctrine, even if those rules may violate the constitution?

3. if it is publicly acceptable to punish minors for committing "moral offenses" then why are adults not subject to the same scrutiny?

As for #1 I say no. Even if a person (or parent) signs on to a contract, if that contract can be challenged as in violation of your basic rights and freedoms then it should not be enforceable. Otherwise, taken to the extreme a person (or his or her parent) could be allowed to sign themselves into slavery.

As for #2 I say no way! There is a huge distinction between a church and a church operated school that receives public money. I have no problem is a church wants to kick out all the fornicators, adulterers, and unwed mothers (mind you it would leave them with a rather small congregation), that's their business. But as long as a church run school is getting public money it has to play by the same rules as any other PUBLIC institution.

And finally, on #3: Why should a female student be expelled from school for a "moral offense" when not only are male students not being expelled, nobody else in our society is getting punished! You can't fire people from their jobs for cheating on their spouse, or having sex out of wedlock, or becoming pregnant when they are not married (even the Catholic schools lost that battle a few years ago). So how can we hold students to a higher moral standard than we expect from adults?

Democrates said...

belizean_gurl, I believe you have missed the point of this discussion. Whether she is pregnant or not does not take away from the alleged illegality of the school's rule on pregnancy. If I am not mistaken, this rule stipulates an immediate expulsion regardless of whether the person has been suspended or not.

As for the safety of the other students, give me a break. Are you going to blame the student, or the lack of security that the school has? NO ONE should be allowed to enter the compound during school hours like that. And that goes for every institution. If I, unfortunately, get into an altercation with someone on a weekend, and they show up to my classroom to confront me, how can you just levy blame on myself when the full context of the story is unavailable. Everyone has enemies, not only this girl. And all those enemies could just as easily show up to school and create commotion. Hence, put the blame where necessary i.e. the lack of security at the school

The Voice said...

Oh, come on Democrates. What happened to civic and personal responsibility? If anything violent happened at the school when the wife of the man that young girl is having a affair with confronted her, the blame would lie at the feet of the young adultress.

So, she has the right to an education. She has the right to get pregnant {is she above or under the age of consent}. She can continue her education elsewhere. And rights are permanently tied and cemented with responsibilities. When we're not responsible, we lose our rights. This young woman is a CHILD. {I'm assuming under the age of 18}. She hasn't developed fully to make decisions that are good for herself. This is clear by her disregard for school rules and affair.

The man she is having sex with should be charged for sleeping with a minor, and she should try and find another school to finish her education in. When we stop respecting rules, we stop respecting authority. When we don't respect authority, our society sinks deeper into the quagmire that we're presently stuck in.

Do you have something against Pallotti or Catholic institutions, Democrates? Belize wouldn't suffer from being a little bit more moral.

Democrates said...

I believe that SOME rights are tied to responsibilities. But there are those few inalienable rights that do not require any justification whatsoever; the right to live, to privacy, to an education, etc. None of these rights should never be revoked. This is not to be mistaken with supporting teenage pregnancy at all. Rather, the basis of my claims come from sheer pragmatism. Often, the Belizean society has felt the need to exacerbate situations by only making them worse. Remember back in the days when the teacher whipped you, parents felt the need to whip you even more, and your neighbor had the right to whip you? I can think of many more, but I digress.

This girl has already received her punishment by virtue of being pregnant (assuming she is pregnant, but that's beside the matter). She is not getting away with anything. What is worse is that the child is the one who has the highest potential to suffer the most amidst this chaos. Hence, this female should have the right to continue her education. Now some have suggested her right to an education is not revoked because she can attend another institution. Now who can guarantee that another institution will accept, especially because of the social commotion this case has stirred? Can you guarantee that she will not be discriminated against?

The Good Ol' Days in Belize City were free from crime and other societal maladies that plague our country's immune system. But they were not free from certain hideous offenses. This situation, I believe, magnifies one such element of society past, i.e. kicking someone when they are on the floor; giving a beating on top of another beating; ensuring that the person feels the wrath and hatred of society down to his/her inner core, be it public or in the private home. This mentality is counterproductive. Let pragmatism have its day on our stage and make better of an already bad situation.

The Voice said...

I'm going to say this, and then I won't say anything more about this topic.

Children should be children. I personally have a problem with children that decide that they're going to act like men and women.

They decide to disregard whatever measures are in place to protect them; Then when consequences hit... what do you think happens? I say THAT is the time we should let them behave like men and women and own up to their actions.

I just DON'T think people {developing adolescents} should take certain actions until they fully understand the consequences of the said actions. So that when the worse happens, they and they alone, will have to take responsibility.

Rules were in place to protect her development. Someone cared to make them. Now someone needs to care enough to enforce them.

belizean_gurl said...

So let me get this straight, the whole point of this blog is to blame Pallotti for all their offenses (ie, having "illegal/unconstitutional" rules about pregnancy, having lax security, taking public money while trying to uphold a moral standard) but ignore the girl's lack of judgement and subsequent punishment, as well as the wife's crude behaviour showing up to the school and causing a scene? And how is it that no-one is talking about the man who started this entire thing? I mean, he's the one who's married and messing around with a kid in school. Did the girl's parents even take him to court for carnal knowledge?

No! Instead, let's blame the school who kicked our daughter out for breaking an "unconstitutional" rule - a rule, I might add, that would be upheld by anyone with a shred of moral decency and personal conscience. Let's discuss how illegal it is for a school to enforce moral standards while discounting the poor behavior of the other individuals involved in this case (student, parents, man & his wife). Let's make it the school's fault that this girl has been scandalised by the expulsion from school while ignoring the shame she brought on herself and her family by sleeping with a married man….and then flouting it for the entire country to see….claiming that SHE has been the one mistreated.

Also, what about Pallotti’s rights? Does their right to not have their institution scandalised have no credence? Their moral beliefs are the yardstick by which their institution is measured. I mean, think about it. When people talk about this story, do they talk about the student’s name? No. They don’t even know it. Instead, they talk about the “Pallotti student”, which vilifies the school, not the student. In arguing about the girl’s rights, we ignore that an institution also has rights, and I believe Pallotti’s rights have been infringed upon.

Lastly, if the discussion is truly about the "alleged illegality of the school's rule on pregnancy" as you so tritely put it, then let's have a discussion about that rather than bringing in the unrelated story of a student who is NOT pregnant. You can focus on her being suspended/expelled b/c she broke one of the school's "illegal" rules, but leave the pregnancy issue out of it. That’s another blog altogether......

belizean_gurl said...

THE VOICE..... I completely agree with u. Let's not argue about the "illegality/unconstitutionality of certain rules, and instead, have people own up to their actions. And let’s not resort to calling something unconstitutional as a way to ignore poor behavior. What this student did was wrong by any standards. She broke rules that were put in place for her own – and other’s – well-being. Why be angry now that she is being punished for putting herself in a bad situation?

Democrates said...

Yes, let us ignore the constitution and our laws. That, by all standards, is the recipe for progress. Riiiiiight.

The Voice said...

She has the right for an education, the constitution dictates it.

But she can get it at another school. She made that choice herself. If she wanted to be a Pallotti student, she would have follows Pallotti rules.

{I'm now turning off my computer, caz I'm REALLY REALLY not gonna say anything again}

Anonymous said...

Eleen says:
Muffles College High School is a Mercy Institution. It is composed of strict rules on Teenage pregnancy. I am a past graduate of this Mercy Institution. Once I enrolled, I abided all rules. It does not mean that I fully agreed with the rules but there were no alternatives rather than to abide. In the controversial situation of teenage pregnancy at Pallotti Institution, in my opinion, there should not be an immediate expulsion, and there should not be discrimination against the teenager.
First of all Pallotti being a mercy institution, the administrators should analyze the problem to get to a solution. Administrators should be able to determine a solution that would benefit not only the school but also the pregnant teenager. Due to the controversial situation of teenage pregnancy, it is extremely ironic to have a mercy institution giving their back by expulsing the pregnant female when she mostly needs their help. The teenager will need an education to bring and to confront life. Yes, it gives a bad reputation to the school and it encourages pregnancy to other females. It also creates chaos in society but there should be a positive mind and a positive solution for this problem. The teenager should not be expulsed of the institution just by accusing her of doing wrong but a baby’s life is not a mistake in someone’s life. The teenager should be given another alternative rather than taking her out of school. There are other institutions that would accept her to continue studying. They can even let her have her baby and then she would be able to come back to school to finish her studies. Teenagers have a right to obtain an education yet the school has a rule against teenage pregnancy. The rule states that if a teenager is pregnant she should be expelled but it is not a law. Hence in my opinion it is not illegal to get pregnant but it is a rule of the institution and the students should accept and follow them to enhance the institution.
Lastly,Getting pregnant is not wrong; it is not evil, but it is a creation of God. Yes, God was perfect but it does not mean that all of us are. In fact, the church teaches us and makes us believe that only God, the Creator of heaven and earth, is the perfect human being that has ever existed. Why such a discrimination against a teenager? Why expulsion? Nobody is perfect on earth. Society and the Mercy institutions expect us to behave in the way they are teaching us. We are not in the past decades when women were not granted the opportunity to have an education. Now we are free to do what we want with our lives, yet there are some that are still impeding us to continue with it alone and make our own choices. A child does not have the fault in such a cruel and chronic situation. It is not as if women will not bare children to the world. I guess that everyone makes their own choices. It is up to us to determine if we are making the right or wrong decisions. In such situation, the young female accepted the rules while enrolled at the institution but her personal life is her own choice, as for example engaging in pre-marital sex. How ironic it is that the nuns are the ones that teach us that God loves everyone the same because we are made in His divine image and likeness. The nuns discriminate us and cut down our education level by trying to imply a low self-esteem of our own.
As stated previous, a child is not a mistake and is not wrong. Being such a Mercy Institution, they should lend a hand to those who really need their help rather than just expulsing and discriminating teenage pregnancy. While being enrolled at Pallotti High School, student sometimes abide by the rules but they decide their own lives. No one should judge the life others live.

Anonymous said...

As we all know pallotti high school is a prestigious educational institution which highly influences Christian values and Christian life. In regard of the incident involving the fourth form student we should be aware that the family and school are the most powerful institutions promoting values to our children. We must be conscious that in every institution there are students that abide by rules of the institution, but there are also those who tend to challenge the system and a perfect example of a rule breaker is this girl. In my opinion if she knew that the rules were too strict why didn’t she chose to assist other college that has less strict laws with which she could cope. She entered a contract with the institution when she decided to attend there plus she is a senior year. She is supposed to be a role model for newer students and she was liable to abide by such rules. Also, it is stupid to challenge the system knowing that you have been suspended one time for the same issue and in your last year of secondary education.
If a student enters school just to breach the school rules and not getting penalized, then what is the purpose of the institution’s rules? Isn’t their purpose to shape their student with moral values? Therefore, every country has their set of laws of which their citizens are to abide of. The purpose of law is to shape their citizens with respect and to run things smoothly. Furthermore this institution did right by expelling this spoiled student to protect the rest and the institution’s mission statement. It is unacceptable that the justice granted an injunction and sends her back to school because she was not granted her constitutional right to defend herself. The student was suspended and in the second instance the expulsion was obvious because she had already been warned.
I also agree that the government has its role in the issue but, in my point of view the government is violating the institution’s constitutional and moral rights because, the rules of the school has been implied since the first year that the institution opened her gate. If the rules were not complacent why the government didn’t reviewed and upgraded the laws to be more just and equitable? In retrospect the law is not supposed to be breached and expected to be unenforceable. The institution had to enforce their rule and I admire their decision. So, if the injunction is granted where the institution’s standards are respected by the law? It is an urge for the government to see that rules are rules just as he sayed to the caneros” the law is the law.”

jemayel said...

As we all know pallotti high school is a prestigious educational institution which highly influences Christian values and Christian life. In regard of the incident involving the fourth form student we should be aware that the family and school are the most powerful institutions promoting values to our children. We must be conscious that in every institution there are students that abide by rules of the institution, but there are also those who tend to challenge the system and a perfect example of a rule breaker is this girl. In my opinion if she knew that the rules were too strict why didn’t she chose to assist other college that has less strict laws with which she could cope. She entered a contract with the institution when she decided to attend there plus she is a senior year. She is supposed to be a role model for newer students and she was liable to abide by such rules. Also, it is stupid to challenge the system knowing that you have been suspended one time for the same issue and in your last year of secondary education.
If a student enters school just to breach the school rules and not getting penalized, then what is the purpose of the institution’s rules? Isn’t their purpose to shape their student with moral values? Therefore, every country has their set of laws of which their citizens are to abide of. The purpose of law is to shape their citizens with respect and to run things smoothly. Furthermore this institution did right by expelling this spoiled student to protect the rest and the institution’s mission statement. It is unacceptable that the justice granted an injunction and sends her back to school because she was not granted her constitutional right to defend herself. The student was suspended and in the second instance the expulsion was obvious because she had already been warned.
I also agree that the government has its role in the issue but, in my point of view the government is violating the institution’s constitutional and moral rights because, the rules of the school has been implied since the first year that the institution opened her gate. If the rules were not complacent why the government didn’t reviewed and upgraded the laws to be more just and equitable? In retrospect the law is not supposed to be breached and expected to be unenforceable. The institution had to enforce their rule and I admire their decision. So, if the injunction is granted where the institution’s standards are respected by the law? It is an urge for the government to see that rules are rules just as he sayed to the caneros” the law is the law.”

Dee Flores said...

Palloti High School is an educational institution that carries a history of following tradtional moral rules. But as years went by and people change along with the changing world, values are being lost. Before any studeny enters a school, they are given the rules and the guidelines that they must follow. Being at at the adolescent stage of life, one is expected to have an idea of what they want in life, so they choose. This female chose to go to Palloti probably for presige or whatever the reason may have been so when she broke the moral coe; she should have been punished justly. The matter was taken to court after the school expelled the girl and the rsult was that the girl was able to go back to school. So why then did the teachers and students disapproved of the female's return? For those who care about their future and their reputation as being a well respectable school the return of that student proves that the laws of the school could be broken. Point in fact, there is no authority higher than the law, but each organization or body people have their own rules and regulations and if those laws are broken then justice must be served. It the same as if someone went to rob a store; he would be arrested and charged and taken to court. The was said to be pregnant and as such the school cannot tolerate that and they were serving justice with the female. If one is aware of the effects of certain acts, why not avoid them if they can't handle the consequences. I may not be in the girl's situation, but its just common human understanding. Now if the female was unaware of the rules and regulation, which is highly impossible as it was her fourth year, then the penalty could have been negotiable. I support the school and the actions that they took upon the situation. Human make mistakes, but if they continue to to make them without being punished, then it become habits. Then it becomes the pathway to everlasting mediocracy as they would not seek to do more than are allowed.The younger generation who are aspiring to achieve a higher eductaion will take this situation into account and humans, unfortunately again, they will feel thta it si okay for them to break the rules as well. They will be fearless in committing errors once they realize that they will not be penalized for it.

creolegial said...

This is the last I'll say of this matter:
Article 26, Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
"Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit".
If we want to get technical and politically correct, education is only a right as far as primary school. (See Reporter's Feb.6 issue);

Democrates said...

If we want to get technically or politically correct, we may perhaps go even further; the Education Act, Section 6 states:

(1) No citizen or permanent resident of Belize shall be refused admission to any school on account of religion, race, ethnicity, language or political
affiliation.

(2)No person shall be refused admission to any school on account of gender, except where such schools are historically non-coeducational.

25.-(1) The education system shall ensure equitable access for both genders to education at all levels, shall be sensitive to the particular needs of the female gender, and shall cater to the special needs of challenged pupils.

2)Schools shall be free of gender, racial and other biases, and shall be managed in such a way that all students shall, as far as may be applicable, co-exist as peacefully and harmoniously as possible.
schools.

27. For serious and repeated offences, punishment may be administered by the principal, or by a member of his staff under his authorisation: Provided that any such punishment shall not be excessive and harmful to the child.

Our laws do not distinguish between primary and secondary schooling; so long as the school is administered by the government it is subjected to these laws.

creolegial said...

Ah, I'm glad you brought this up, Democrates. Okay, so the Belizean laws do not distinguish between primary and secondary education. However, the Act does havesome interesting points. I am no authority on law, but I am starting to notice some gaps in this Act.
You quoted, "...the particular needs of the female gender": What are these "particular" needs? Who has defined what these needs are? Making sure they have pills when it's time for their monthly? Or having a nurse on hand? What exactly?
"...provided that any such punishment shall not be excessive and harmful to the child": Define "harmful". Psychologically harmful? Physically harmful? If I spank a child, is that considered harmful? Why didn't they specify here?

But I also note that you excluded article 26 of that same passage which says, "School authorities shall ensure that pupils are free at school from
sexual or other forms of harassment, from intimidation, and from exposure
to drugs, pornography and other forms of morally, mentally or physically
harmful activities." This particular bullet specifies what may be considered harmful to a child and this includes "moral" conduct. So I am thinking that rules regarding a student's sexual conduct can also be included into this provision.

The act also gives government-aided schools, like Pallotti, the right to provide religious instruction:
"The school day in every government and government-aided primary
and secondary school shall include corporate worship and the singing of
the National Anthem, and flag raising ceremonies shall be conducted at
schools on a regular basis on the part of all pupils in attendance at the
school:
Provided that no child or registered pupil shall be obliged to partake in
worship if objection thereto is made in writing by either of his parents.
30. Religious instruction shall be given in every government and
government-aided primary and secondary school, subject to such rules as
may be prescribed:
Provided that no child or registered pupil shall be obliged to undertake
religious instruction if objection thereto is made in writing by either of his
parents.
The only way that this religious instruction won't be valid, is if the parents write to the school and say that they don't want their child to participate in the religious activities. If you want to go to Pallotti and you don't want your child to participate in religious activities, they don't accept you at all. Therefore, if the child agrees to go to Pallotti, she is "subject to such rules as may be prescribed" - whatever those rules are, including rules which dictate moral conduct as outlined in #26 of the Act.

Perhaps I'm ignorant of legal jargon, but that's what's in the act. If there are any ambiguities, then I think the government needs to revise the act to make it more specific as what one person wrote about in the Reporter for Feb. 6. There needs to be education reform. But as it is now, I am will continue to support Pallotti and other such schools and as so far as I can understand, they are abiding by the stipulations of the Belize Education Act revised 2000.

creolegial said...

Ah, I'm glad you brought this up, Democrates. Okay, so the Belizean laws do not distinguish between primary and secondary education. However, the Act does havesome interesting points. I am no authority on law, but I am starting to notice some gaps in this Act.
You quoted, "...the particular needs of the female gender": What are these "particular" needs? Who has defined what these needs are? Making sure they have pills when it's time for their monthly? Or having a nurse on hand? What exactly?
"...provided that any such punishment shall not be excessive and harmful to the child": Define "harmful". Psychologically harmful? Physically harmful? If I spank a child, is that considered harmful? Why didn't they specify here?

But I also note that you excluded article 26 of that same passage which says, "School authorities shall ensure that pupils are free at school from
sexual or other forms of harassment, from intimidation, and from exposure
to drugs, pornography and other forms of morally, mentally or physically
harmful activities." This particular bullet specifies what may be considered harmful to a child and this includes "moral" conduct. So I am thinking that rules regarding a student's sexual conduct can also be included into this provision.

The act also gives government-aided schools, like Pallotti, the right to provide religious instruction:
"The school day in every government and government-aided primary
and secondary school shall include corporate worship and the singing of
the National Anthem, and flag raising ceremonies shall be conducted at
schools on a regular basis on the part of all pupils in attendance at the
school:
Provided that no child or registered pupil shall be obliged to partake in
worship if objection thereto is made in writing by either of his parents.
30. Religious instruction shall be given in every government and
government-aided primary and secondary school, subject to such rules as
may be prescribed:
Provided that no child or registered pupil shall be obliged to undertake
religious instruction if objection thereto is made in writing by either of his
parents.
The only way that this religious instruction won't be valid, is if the parents write to the school and say that they don't want their child to participate in the religious activities. If you want to go to Pallotti and you don't want your child to participate in religious activities, they don't accept you at all. Therefore, if the child agrees to go to Pallotti, she is "subject to such rules as may be prescribed" - whatever those rules are, including rules which dictate moral conduct as outlined in #26 of the Act.

Perhaps I'm ignorant of legal jargon, but that's what's in the act. If there are any ambiguities, then I think the government needs to revise the act to make it more specific as what one person wrote about in the Reporter for Feb. 6. There needs to be education reform. But as it is now, I am will continue to support Pallotti and other such schools and as so far as I can understand, they are abiding by the stipulations of the Belize Education Act revised 2000.

Abisai said...

My personal view of the problem: I respect both sides; the school rules and students demand, to accept pregnant students in the institution.

Referring to school rules, students that attend educational schools, all levels, and consider them selves a student, need to abide by school rules. Before students apply to school she/ he have to read what the school rules are. Every school states clearly what the rules of the school are. So, students are not innocent about the rules of the institutions. Pallotti's rule is clearly and specific: any student suspected of bearing or carrying a child will be expelled upon confirmation of such an offense. In my opinion, if a student what to attend palloti high she needs to respect and walk by rules.

Moreover, student shouldn’t expect that that institution will accept whatever the demands of the student are. The institutions have rules to maintain order and transparency. Palloti have maintained a good view of the institution for many years. It is a Christian school and by law has to maintain the good name of the school. Students that can’t accept and obey the school rules need, BY LAW be punished. Palloti make no exceptions. Once you break the rules in this case, pregnancy, she will find her self out of Palloti School.

However, female students that break palloti rules have other alternatives. It is not the end of the world! Girls don’t worry! Belize has many other institutions that have education as primary goal. Some institution don’t care if you are pregnant or not, but their goal is to make educated person. Why worry? If you can have both; an education and your precious baby. Don’t make me wrong! Indeed, palloti is a good institution! But in Belize many educational institutions are available. Students in general, watch your steps and don’t abandon your studies. Think before acting!!

Thanks,
Big up MJC!!!