Police investigate student assault claim

The Deputy Police Commissioner, Papali'i Monalisa Tiai-Keti, has confirmed that they are investigating allegations a student at Palalaua College was badly beaten by the School's Principal.

The student, 18-year-old Brian Vaela'a, is in Year 13 at the College. He alleged that he was struck with a P.V.C.-like pipe as a disciplinary measure for posting a photo on social media of he and a friend in school uniform. 

The corporal punishment is alleged to have involved the student being struck repeatedly on the torso and face. 

The boy's mother provided a photo of the bruising to his body but declined to share the image of his face for fear of retribution. 

The Samoa Observer interviewed the boy on Thursday and did observe red marks on the left side of his face and eye.

The Samoa Observer contacted the Palalaua College Principal, Leoloa Tuuu Mautofiga, on on her mobile telephone shortly after midday on Friday seeking her account of the events.

She answered the call and gave an undertaking to answer another in 30 minutes' time and submit to go over the allegations in details. When this newspaper called back at the agreed time, her phone was switched off; it remained so at several other times throughout the day.

During the interview with the Samoa Observer, Mr. Vaela'a claimed the photo was not damaging to the school's reputation. 

The Samoa Observer has not seen the photo in question.

Mr. Vaelaa, who had earlier shared the photo to social media, said that there was no rule prohibiting posting photos on social media while wearing their school uniforms.

Mr. Vaelaa's mother, Sara, said she noticed the incident had left a psychological impact on her son as well as visible physical scars. 

She has condemned the actions done by Palalaua College’s Principal against her son.

Ms. Vaelaa said that when her son came home, he was very silent and did not say much.

“When I took a closer look at him, he had so many bruises on his body," she said.

"I knew my son was in a lot of pain so we went to the Poutasi District Hospital where a nurse had the chance to look at my son,” she said.

Mr. Vaelaa was examined and admitted for treatment for his wounds. The hospital nurse, the boy's mother said, independently filed a Police report.

The boy's mother was advised an investigation by Police would take up to three weeks to see through to its conclusion, she said.

She also alleged that this was not the first time her son was given corporal punishment from the school's Principal..

“A similar case but not this extreme happened earlier this year; my son was hit was because his assignment was overdue and another reason was because his hair was too long," she alleged. 

Ms. Vaelaa, a mother-of-two, said she would withdraw her children from school because she was afraid of the consequences. 

Corporal punishment in schools in Samoa is not illegal. 

The Education Act was amended in 2019 to clarify that only "reasonable force" is permitted under the law and only in specific circumstances, such as preventing criminal acts, averting disruptive behaviour and preventing harm to children. 

However, the law explicitly states that the use of an "object" to administer punishment is not legally defined as reasonable. 


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