Bomb threats in southeastern primary schools

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

TTUTA president Martin Lum Kin. –

Primary schools in the South Eastern Education District, like Moruga and Rio Claro, received bomb threats on March 5, causing panic among students, staff and parents.

Hundreds of students and staff were evacuated, and some classes were dismissed early.

The police and fire officers searched the schools, but found no bombs or any explosive devices.

Newsday learnt that the threat was sent via an e-mail calling on everyone to stay away from the schools on March 5 and 6.

President of the TT Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) Martin Lum Kin said the association was told all schools in the district had received a bomb threat through their official Ministry of Education e-mail addresses.

He was critical of the ministry’s handling of the incident.

Via a voice note on WhatsApp, Lum Kin said the schools informed the police and fire service and followed the necessary protocols, which included having schools’ occupants assemble at their muster points.

But, he said, “TTUTA is well aware that it is impossible for both the police and the fire service to visit all schools in the southeastern district because of the geographical location of the schools.”

However, he said, the ministry had told principals of these schools they are not allowed to dismiss schools, and that people should await instructions from the ministry.

He said teachers, administrators and students were left at muster points in hot sun and in some cases, without shelter.

He charged: “This is another example of the Ministry of Education undermining the authority of our principals under section 27 of the Education Act. The principals are directly responsible for the safety of all occupants on the school’s compound and, as such, have the authority to make decisions that affect the health and safety of the compound’s occupants. “

He said TTUTA would “not sit idly by and allow the Minister of Education to diminish the authority of our schools’ principals.”

He described it as “quite inhumane” to leave students and staff standing “in this hot sun and under those harsh conditions.”

On behalf of TTUTA, Lum Kin called on the Education Minister to discontinue this practice and to let school administrators and principals use their discretion and authority over health and safety issues.

At a denominational school in Rio Claro, a parent complained the principal did not take the threat seriously.

“Parents from other schools called parents to let them know about it.

“It seems he was very angry when parents came to get their children. He has to take the threat seriously because we never know what could have happened,” said one parent, who asked to remain anonymous.

Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly promised to send a media statement on the issue.