Teachers say Mario was the real victim

Valentines Day, amid an atmosphere highly charged with crime, was painted red for all the wrong reasons. The weekend was anything but romantic for families who lost loved ones in some of the most violent ways possible. Five people lost their lives over the weekend including Mario Butcher, a form four student of the Gros Islet Secondary School.
According to police reports 16-year-old Mario Butcher was in Leslie Land on Sunday, February 13 at about 12:10pm along with 19-year-old Donavan Lovence also known as “Fat Leaf” when they were shot, drive by style. Both were taken to the Victoria Hospital where Butcher was pronounced dead while Lovence, a Grass Street resident remained admitted until Monday, February 14 when he succumbed to his injuries.
According to a police report, after the Leslie Land shooting police went in pursuit of suspects at Wilton’s Yard popularly known as “Grave Yard” where 22-year-old, Ashley Bernard also known as “Skunk” of Victoria Street, Castries, was shot by police in the process. He was later pronounced dead at the Victoria Hospital.
This week the STAR paid a visit to the Gros Islet Secondary School where teachers and students were still struggling to come to grips with their loss. Teachers had a shrine set up in memory of Mario Butcher who’d lost his life the day before Valentines Day. Mario’s violent death was unlike anything the Gros Islet Secondary School, or any other school on the island has had to deal with in recent times.
While classes went on as normal for most students, Mario’s homeroom was out of sorts. The form four homeroom teacher Tessa Pierre expressed there was really no point rushing students back to regular school mode as it was clear many of them very too traumatized to focus on their lessons. The students spent Valentines Day in tears when they arrived on Monday only to find that one of their classmates was dead.
“He was a good classmate,” Michelle Phillip told the STAR once their homeroom teacher got them to open up and express their feelings. “We talked but not all the time. I never had a problem with Mario. He could be a little troublesome, but nothing to talk about. I miss him because we won’t ever see him walk through the door again. It hurt me to know my classmate died just like that. We found out about it over the weekend and we found it strange. Everyone was shocked. On Monday everybody was crying and counselors came in to speak to us. They told us it’s okay to say what we feel and cry. They told us we should listen to our parents—maybe Mario should have listened to his mother.”
Students expressed a mixture of emotions, most were sad, angry and most of all overwhelmed. They described Mario as “a good person who was funny and not really troublesome.” Despite his irregular school attendance, Mario’s homeroom teacher had been shaken by his sudden passing and revealed he’d been a promising student.
“Mario was with me for two years and it was evident he was one of the top performing students in the class,” Pierre said. “Unfortunately he did not attend school regularly, but when he did he’d pick up really quickly. He’d get new concepts right away while the other students were struggling, despite the fact that he was not very regular. I taught him Mathematics and he did well but because of his irregularity, his performance suffered quite a bit.”
Mario’s homeroom teacher spoke about factors that may have influenced the changes teachers and even Mario’s mother couldn’t help but noticed as he transitioned from form one to four.
“Unfortunately Mario, the area he’s from, the environment and the circumstances that he was raised in, I think that really contributed to who Mario had become just before his passing,” she said.  “From form one to form four he became a different student and we saw the gradual change in him. Unfortunately it was as a result of the environment he was in. He came to school and we tried to expose him to positive things but when he goes back home he’s back into the ghetto.”
Pierre added: “A lot of our students are in that situation where they come to school, we try our best with them but when they go back home they go back into negative influences that have a greater impact on them than what we teach them. They spend more time there and they see these people as their role models. No longer do students see teachers as their role models—not even their parents. These people out there in the ghettos and gangs are their role models. These are the people who have a greater influence on them than we would.”
Teachers say the 16-year-old’s mother came to the school constantly to check up on her son.
“She’s taking it very hard,” the teen’s homeroom teacher said. “His mother was very concerned about him. She knew of the circumstances and tried to pull him away from that, despite the fact that they’re in there. She would ask the teachers and the vice principal to intervene, to talk to him, because she really had an interest in him. She was interested and she tried to make a difference. She tried to keep him off the block; you know what’s going on these days, it’s block against block. She was trying to keep him at home and at school. We’ve been speaking to his mother, finding out how we can help. He wasn’t a disrespectful child; it’s just that he was frequently absent. He had some bad influences.”
School’s counselor Dormillia Henry had her hands full with distressed students and when asked she could not say for sure how much impact the debriefing sessions were having. Some students couldn’t even manage to stop crying long enough to express how they felt. Henry tried asking five of Mario’s closest friends to use one word to describe him and all five broke down in tears.
“I’m trying to understand the emotions the children are going through and help them deal with it,” she said. “Some of them are still very traumatized and it’s very difficult for them to express what they’re feeling. I will be touching base with them until the time of the funeral. I think it will be necessary.”
On Tuesday Mario’s homeroom was busy working on slogans and making posters for their March Against Violence on Friday, February 18. The march is being organized by the school’s Social Studies department and students are expected to make the rounds in the community all in the name of peace.

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