The injury of a teacher on the job has again brought to the fore several questions and associated issues pertaining to who is responsible and liable when employees get injured on the job.
The misfortune of schoolteacher Rhea Lewis may place some needed focus on the compensation process – how it ought to proceed, and the length of time before a conclusive resolution is achieved.
On Wednesday, Lewis, an English Teacher at the Jennings Secondary School, came to OBSERVER and related how she was allegedly attacked by a male student last November.
“It was the first class of the morning; it was after eight. I left the staff room to go to my second form class, which is on the same level as the Principal’s office. As soon as I [set] foot into the class, I didn’t even get to say good morning. I immediately was struck in my left eye.”
She recounted that, with her eye now swollen, she attempted to subdue the student, hoping to keep him there until the principal could be summoned. “I think that got him a bit agitated and he proceeded to push me,” she said.
Lewis said she was still on the ground when the student got a chair and proceeded to beat her about the body with it. She said she was left bleeding from the assault and police were called.
Lewis explained that she did not expect what happened afterward to consume her life months after the attack.
Immediately after sustaining the injury, she sought care for her eye locally and doctors here were treating her for uveitis, a form of eye inflammation. However, she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was more seriously wrong with her eye.
“In December 2018, I saw an eye specialist in Atlanta, Georgia, where it was deemed, after many [tests], that I had open angle glaucoma. It was termed as being irreparable,” said Lewis.
Lewis said she is now being treated with a trial drug in the hope that she can at least retain sight in her left eye. Costs for medical care and travel have mounted. Lewis estimated that they may have climbed past $9,000.
However, she stated, when she tried to claim compensation from the Education Ministry she encountered more problems.
“I submitted receipts of expenses that I had incurred at that time, as well as a letter stating what the receipts were for. Weeks later I was contacted by the Director of Education.
“There was a hearing with the young man. At that meeting I was told that the letter needed to be more in depth. I needed to itemize everything that is on the receipts in a letter with the procedure, medication, whatever it is, with the amount next to it.
“Also, because I travelled to the US, they wanted an explanation as to why. Because, apparently, without them being convinced that I needed to make that decision, I would not be refunded for those expenses.”
Lewis maintains that she is hard pressed to resubmit her records because of her injuries. “I think it is unfair to ask me considering all that I have been through,” she said, adding that to this day she has not been compensated for the money spent on her medical expenses.
The aggrieved teacher also complained of lengthy delays with the case on the police end, but admitted that they have contacted her on several occasions and kept her abreast of the case’s progress.
OBSERVER contacted Director of Education Clare Brown who declined to comment on the matter, but indicated that action was being taken within a stipulated process.