The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) today dismissed an appeal by two senior principals who claimed that the manner in which they were suspended breached their fundamental rights such as the right to work, the protection of the law and the right to equal protection.
Viewers may recall that in 2008, the unrest took place at the Escuela Secundaria Tecnica Mexico in San Roman Village when Minister of Education Patrick Faber had just taken up the education portfolio. Juanita Lucas and Celia Carillo, the Principal and Vice Principal of the school reported that the teachers refused to cooperate with them, and parents of the students started to resist them, and so Faber took disciplinary action against them, which he did not have the authority to do. A team was sent to the school to look into the cause of the conflict. Following their report, the Chief Education Officer sent the two appellants on leave with full pay, pending formal disciplinary action.
And while the teachers took Faber and his Ministry to Court claiming he violated their rights, they won their case before Justice Hafiz Bertram who made all the remedies against the investigating team and their report. But, Lucas and Celia Carillio believed their position was not fully justified, so they took the matter to the Court of Appeal which was heard in 2010. 3 years later, the decision was handed and their appeal was dismissed. Their attorney at the time, Magali Marin-Young on her client’s advice, took the matter to the CCJ.
And so today, the Trinidad-based Court also dismissed arguments that principal Juanita Lucas and vice Principal Celia Carillo, be awarded damages. In dismissing the appeal, the CCJ, the country’s final court, emphasised and we quote “that the suspensions were not to punish the appellants but rather to allow a proper inquiry into the problems at the school”, end quote.
The Court noted that the right to work was not a guarantee of continued employment and there was no inference with the appellants’ ability to continue practising their profession. The majority held that there was no breach of the protection of the law or the right to equal protection because the team of persons sent to the school was on a fact-finding inquiry. The Court said the Chief Education Officer took this action in the public interest given the continued upheavals and disruptions at the school.
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