On a daily basis, I deal with heavy, life altering cases where parents find their rights threatened by aggressive CPS investigators. This work is extremely important to families who critically need a good defense. Once in a while, I have to lighten it up a little bit. This is one of those days. I had the chance to take a bicycle tour of Freeport, Bahamas today. No, I am not licensed to practice law in the Bahamas, but I did learn from my tour guide “Mikey” that the judges still wear the wigs and robes that are common throughout the British Commonwealth. And you’d better not laugh at them while in the courthouse. In fact, everything that I know about Bahamian law, Bahamian Society and the Bahama CPS came from Mikey. Now, before you dismiss this blog entirely, let me tell you that Mikey seems like a credible source. He is a husband and father in his late 20’s and is on his second career, now working for five plus years as a bicycle tour guide. His first career only lasted three years. (He was a snorkeling tour guide.) To me, Mikey seemed convincing and credible when he recalled his own childhood and recounted the firm hand that his mother raised him with. At one point, as if on cue, his mother called him on his cell phone and he interrupted the tour to take her call.
Mikey informed us that all of the school age children on the island wear uniforms. Towards the end of our tour we passed several schools that were getting out for the day and we saw that this was so. He also informed us that this made the children easy to spot. Both of these facts were confirmed by observation so Mikey is coming off as a credible source of important information thus far. At this point, I resisted the impulse to cross examine Mikey, but I was confident from the look in his eye that he was recalling some personal experiences with school uniforms making him stand out when he did not want to.
Mikey went on to expound on the significance of uniforms and being able to spot children out and about on a school day. As he explained it, it works like this: Bahamian authorities place a great emphasis on getting all of their children educated. As it turns out, school uniforms are an important part of that process. First, if you spot a child in uniform who is not in school you know that they are “playing hooky.” Second, if you spot a child out of uniform during school hours you know that they are “playing hooky.” According to my single source, either way a child that is supposed to be in school who is not in school is picked up by police and given a “whoopin.” Also, according to my source, all Bahamian parents (apparently without exception) have consented in advance to the police administering corporal punishment to kids not in school when they are supposed to be. This is known as the Police Hooky iWhoopin. (PHW, pronounced PHEW! and spoken while wiping the brow with the back of the hand.) After this consensual corporal punishment, the children are then delivered home to their mothers from whom they obtain a second “whoopin.” This is known affectionately as a Mom Whoopin, (abbreviated MWOP, and apparently pronounced with an involuntary nervous glance over one’s right shoulder.)
Wait, it gets better. According to my extremely credible source, if anyone calls Children’s Protective Services (whether for educational neglect or for the corporal punishment) the CPS worker comes to the house and gives the truant child a third “whoopin.” If, on the other hand, Mom was having any difficulty with the second “whoopin,” CPS is there to step in, and through the combined effort the corporal punishment is accomplished. This is known as a Parent Assisted Remedial Measure (PARM.) While PARM has historically been effective and resulted in many Bahamain children growing up to be well educated citizens contributing to society, the PARM policy may come to an end since it is now under review due to criticism by some. There is campaign underway by groups organized to eliminate or even outlaw CPS PARM activity; using the unifying slogan, “First, do no PARM!”
Unfortunately, immediately after my bicycle tour, I had to get back on a cruise ship and quickly depart for the return trip to the United States. As a result, I was not able to confirm the accuracy of any of this information with local child protection officials. Also unfortunately, I have now lost contact with Mikey and cannot corroborate any of this information with him before publishing this article. Therefore, I am somewhat vulnerable to an accusation that I have embellished some of the facts reported to me. In the unfortunate event that some of the facts asserted in this article prove to be embellished, I now offer a formal apology to the Bahama CPS Authority, and the Bahama Ministry of Tourism and respectfully request that I be allowed to return to this country (or at least to the Straw Market in Nassau.)
Whether embellished or not, this information has made me appreciate how good we have it back home in Michigan. I am looking forward to returning to the land where virtually all CPS workers believe that all corporal punishment is evil (even if legal); where they believe that most truancy is the fault of parents and where they believe that their job is to assure that kids never get a “whoopin”, or even have to do Jumping Jacks as a form of punishment.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not an advocate for corporal punishment. However, as a lawyer I understand that physical punishment is legal, but injuring a child is not. Parents who choose to employ corporal punishment should exercise caution to stay within legal boundaries.
While I cannot vouch for the accuracy of Mikey’s information, it certainly makes for an interesting discussion on a bike tour. It also leads me to ponder what it would look like if our government worked with parents rather than against them.