Education officials do not currently keep centralized data on assaults, threats or intimidation against teachers in government schools.
Authorities were unable even to offer a partial response to a detailed Freedom of Information request from the Cayman Compass seeking, among other things, statistics on the number of assaults reported against school staff in the past four academic years.
In its response, the Department of Education Services said it would need to individually review some 5,000 student records to answer the request. It acknowledged this was a gap in its “reporting structure” which officials said they are committed to improving.
The request was made in the aftermath of a classroom assault on a teacher at John Gray High School in March that was reported to the police. Government responded on Monday, 60 days after the request was filed – the maximum time allowed under the FOI Law – saying it could not provide the information.
“Unfortunately, the data requested is not available from schools in a consistent and comparable format. The compilation of such data, tracking individual incident reports for over 5,000 students, and the scrutiny that would be necessary to establish statistical validity, at this time is not economically viable.
“Your request has highlighted the need for our system to improve the reporting processes for behavior, which as you may be aware forms an important part of a key initiative for the new school year,” the response said.
The Compass had requested the number of reports of staff in government schools who had been assaulted, threatened or intimidated by pupils or their parents in the past four academic years, the number of these cases that were referred to police, details of action taken in each case by the authorities and all records relating to the incidents.
It is common, in instances where the full information is not easily available, for public authorities or government bodies to offer a partial response to an open records request. But the response included none of the requested information.
The department said it was seeking to improve its data collection to make such statistics available in the future.
Information on assaults on teachers is available in other school systems, for example, in the U.K. The day after the stabbing of a teacher in Leeds in the north of England in April, the Daily Telegraph reported that pupils were suspended 16,970 times and expelled on 550 occasions in 2011/12 for “physical assault against an adult” in English state schools. Officials in Cayman say they hope to be able to make similar data available for Cayman’s school system in future.
Department of Education Services Freedom of Information Manager James Watler wrote in his response to the Compass: “We will be extending and enhancing existing behavior reporting structures to cover all schools with more consistent reporting protocols.
“We have been involved in an ongoing effort to improve and enhance our data collection processes over the past several years, with much of the work for the 2014-15 year focusing around tracking behavioral issues. We anticipate therefore that our capacity to report on the matters you have requested should improve in the upcoming school year and will better align with our annual public reporting on other matters such as examination outcomes, attendance and enrolment.”