Education Ministry assigns community police to 15 secondary schools prone to violence

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The Ministry of Education, in collaboration with community police, have assigned dedicated staff to 15 schools where violent incidents have been prevalent.

In a statement on Thursday the ministry said, “School violence continues to pose a challenge to the operations of, in particular, 15 secondary schools across TT. Though all schools operate by the guidelines of the national school code of conduct, and notwithstanding the operations of the school social workers and guidance councillors of the Student Support Service Division (SSSD)…violent incidents continue.”

The statement said the SSSD has reported that the impact of these incidents is compounded by taping and circulation on social media.

“The effect of this has been, in some cases, to encourage perpetrators, as they see this as glorification of their deeds – a positive development – in which they revel.”

It said the current school discipline matrix relies on suspension as one of its most severe consequences for indiscipline. However, it no longer serves as a deterrent for repeat offenders.

“In fact, being suspended from school is seen as a badge of honour and, in many cases, allows them freedom to engage in other activities.”

The statement also said making contact with the parents of repeat offenders is difficult for school officials, adding those parents do not attend parent seminars and other developmental programmes hosted by the SSSD at schools.

It said the inter-ministerial committee, assembled to make recommendations for the updating of the school discipline matrix, is expected to deliver its recommendations by the first week of May and the wider education stakeholders would also be engaged.

“At this time, based on the number of violent incidents which have taken place both inside and outside of these schools’ compounds over the last days, the ministry consulted with both the Ministry of National Security and the Commissioner of Police (CoP) to discuss an immediate response to incidents of school violence, pending the recommendations of the inter-ministerial committee.”

It said a letter of formal request from the Ministry of Education to the CoP for advice on the procedure for removing violent students from school and encouraging them into rehabilitative services.

It also said the TTPS has been asked to patrol the schools at the end of the school day.

An emergency meeting was held with the Child Support Unit of the TTPS and the Chief Education Officer of the ministry on Thursday to discuss improving the environment of the schools.

“One of the immediate recommendations is the temporary posting of police officers to the 15 schools, so they would be available throughout the school day to provide support for violence deterrence.”