TTUTA Tobago officer: Let’s meet to discuss violence and indiscipline

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

TTUTA Tobago officer Bradon Roberts.

TTUTA Tobago officer Bradon Roberts is calling for a consultation of education stakeholders to address the growing incidence of violence and indiscipline in schools.

His call came in the wake of an alleged chopping incident on Thursday involving two male students at the Signal Hill Secondary School.

Police reported that around 10.40 am, the third-form students got into a heated argument on the school’s premises. During the quarrel, one of the boys whipped out a sharp object and chopped the other student.

That student is currently in police custody while the wounded students is warded at the Scarborough General Hospital.

Police are trying to determine how the student got the object into the school.

Roberts said he was very concerned about the indiscipline in schools.

He observed there is no means of gauging the efficacy of the punitive measures currently being implemented to address the issue.

“Nothing happens to these students,” he said.

“You might give them a suspension. But if it is that students are not keen on the curriculum in the first place, how is the suspension helping them?”

Roberts told Newsday of a case at another school in which a student constantly disrespected a teacher, even outside of the school’s premises.

“How do you treat with something like that?”

He believes the strategies currently being employed to address the issue are not effective.

“But to me, dealing with indiscipline will require an overhaul in education. There are some students that the education is not meeting, and if we don’t treat with their needs anything will frustrate them because they not coping with the education already.

“So, there are big discussions to take place with all stakeholders. It will not be a quick fix, but we have to start churning out some of the measures that will help schools. There has to be a disciplinary process that makes sense because management of the school compound is of serious concern.”

In the meantime, Roberts believes the division needs to restart the education workshops it hosted last year, via zoom, for parents and teachers.

“They need to get back with that because parents need help managing their children, the frustrations with this pandemic and other emotional things, everybody in it. So, we have to reach out to one another.”

He added, “Everybody needs guidance, even the teachers who have to deal with those things need that comfort. There are all-round challenges which would have been heightened by the pandemic and the shutdowns and all of the social constraints.”

Saying guidance officers are doing their best to reach out to students, Roberts asked, “How much can they really do when students are already boiling in frustration?”

Roberts argued, the manner in which indiscipline is addressed in schools has implications for teachers and security officers.

He said security officers are not duty-bound to stop fights.

“They are there to protect the compound.”

Roberts said although teachers may be well-intentioned, they too must be very careful.

“There are teachers who would have been damaged or injured in parting these fights, and there are teachers who get into trouble while parting the fight. Because I could try to grab you and in all the movements my hand end ups where it is not supposed to end up, they have to be very careful with that.”

In a statement on Friday, the THA Division of Education, Research and Technology condemned the alleged chopping incident and said it is being investigated.

The statement said the division’s secretary Zorisha Hackett and assistant secretary Orlando Kerr have promised to place urgent attention to dealing with the increase in violence perpetuated by or against students.

It said in response to Thursday’s incident, officers within the Student Support Services Unit have been assigned to urgently provide the required support to the students involved.

The division said the unit will also implement individual and group intervention strategies to mitigate against the negative impacts of this incident.

It added the safety and security of all students remain the division’s number one priority.

“In this regard, all obligatory steps will be taken to provide our students with a healthy, positive and safe educational environment.”

On January 14, the division also condemned a violent confrontation involving boys from the Scarborough Secondary School and several young men. The confrontation was captured on video and posted on Facebook.

On that occasion, the division said representatives of the Student Support Services Unit was brought in to meet with the students to alleviate both short and long-term effects.

It said, then, the students were to engage in trauma and post-traumatic strategies over several weeks.