The situation between officials at Queen’s College and the operators of a local disability school where the latter was evicted from its property has quickly escalated into a public fight, with QC administrators now defending their decision to terminate that agreement.
The Queen’s College Board of Governors issued a statement on the matter Thursday and noted that they have refrained from taking the matter public, until the operators of The Bahamas Down Syndrome and Friends started making the media rounds and publicised defamatory social media postings.
On Wednesday the Journal reported that officials of The Bahamas Down Syndrome and Friends Centre were seeking help after they say they were kicked out of a building they shared with Queen’s College Galaxy Bookstore, without reason.
The Down syndrome centre shares an entrance with the bookstore.
But yesterday the private school’s board of governors explained that six years ago at the request of QC Foundation Chairman Sir Durward Knowles, the school agreed to designate a space on its campus for the disabilities school, free of charge and absorbing all utility charges for the entire period.
“Notwithstanding the commitment of Queen’s College, the relationship with the association has not worked as the college would have liked,” the release read. “The written communications from the association makes reference to an incident outside the Galaxy Bookstore in which Queen’s College administration had to call the police to restore order.
“There have been many other incidents of difference over the period of this relationship. Despite our best efforts and our commitment to assisting children with special needs, we have been unsuccessful in reaching an amicable resolution to this matter.”
QC officials said the cooperation, relationship and goodwill usually expected between people serving the common good were sadly absent from the association and also accused officials at the down syndrome centre of posting inaccurate and defamatory remarks about them on their social media platforms and lodging serious accusations against QC Principal Andrea Gibson.
“In all the circumstances, Queen’s College has exercised a certain degree of restraint but has now considered it necessary to terminate the relationship,” the school’s statement added. “A two-week notice to vacate the premises was served on the association on June 24, 2014. At the end of the 14 days the association requested further time in order to vacate; Queen’s College facilitated additional time and during this period the communications via the social media and more lately to the press were made.”
But those comments did not sit well with President of The Bahamas Down Syndrome and Friends Centre Cheryl-Johnson-Newell, who said these claims are absurd and that the fight is all about parking spaces.
“We have been told that we cannot pull up to the walkway that we share to offload and load up special needs children,” she explained. “We have students with Cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome, Rhyns syndrome, children with autism and children with high anxiety levels. These children, some of them, they run and if you don’t hold them they will run right into the road.
“Don’t you think that if we have been on that campus for six years, that instead of placing parking spaces for the bookstore staff that could walk10 miles a day and who are very healthy, that maybe they could acknowledge some of our special needs children?”
Mrs. Johnson-Newell said letters she received that were sent from QC prove that she and her disabled students are being victimised.
“I have 43 children that are now homeless and don’t have a future because of victimisation and discrimination and disabled parking that the government has just passed a law on, so why are we being the victims here,” she asked.
Meanwhile in that statement, Queen’s College officials said they are sticking to their decision to terminate that tumultuous relationship.