by Donna Sealy
The alleged assault of a secondary school principal this morning at his school has sparked renewed calls for better security at the island’s institutions of learning.
It was around 9:30 that a man claiming to be the father of a 15-year-old female student of Parkinson Memorial Secondary School entered Principal Jeff Broomes’ office at the Pine, St. Michael school allegedly assaulted him and broke his spectacles.
The man is now in police custody assisting with investigations.
And for what seems like the umpteenth time, both the President of the Barbados Union of Teachers and the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union are making an impassioned plea to the authorities to not only increase the number of security guards but also improve the overall security of all the schools.
Pedro Shepherd, who leads the 39 year-old BUT, told Barbados TODAY that most primary schools were without guards and at secondary schools the one or two guards were still inadequate.
“If a parent goes to a school to see a teacher the guard is dealing with that particular situation and the gates are left unattended so somebody can come two minutes after, while the guard is either accompanying that parent to the office or to the classroom and could come in.
“I don’t know if we have to look at the layout, where these guards are stationed at schools so there might be a waiting area so the guard can deal with each person one by one. You can’t expect a guard to deal with 40 people who come to the school to teachers or whoever and be effective.
“I don’t know how we’re going to deal with it. I don’t know if it would mean the installation of cameras and monitors in the principals offices so they would know who is at the gate and if that person is waiting to come in,” he said.
Shepherd noted the installation of a security system did not have to be expensive as schools were already outfitted with technology and a webcam directed towards the gate could work.
At some schools visitors do not have to state who they are. Statements such as “I’m here to see the principal!” or “I’m going to the office!” or “I was told to go to the office when I get here”, are enough to get them past the security guards and onto the compound.
It was at the annual general meeting, which he addressed for the first time as president, that he spoke about the issue of security which the union had been ventilating for some time.
It was a point with which Redman agreed.
Noting that security in schools was a “very serious problem”, she added that students arming themselves with weapons was “potentially a far more immediate threat”.
“I’m concerned at the fact that schools need greater security and they need properly trained security guards that understand their roles, functions and responsibilities. I said recently in a another medium that a security guard told her that he was there to protect the school’s property and not persons.
“There is more student-on-student violence, student-on-teacher violence and now parent-on-teacher violence and what may even be of greater concern is the incidence now of the numbers of students coming to school with weapons. This is a problem throughout the secondary system.
“Children are bringing knives and scissors and those types of implements to school and some of them will say it’s in response to the fact that they are being bullied and they feel the need to protect themselves,” she said.
The BSTU President noted that at some schools it was possible to by-pass the principal’s office and head straight to the classrooms and accost teachers.
“We have to look at how schools are fenced, the layout, the placement of security personnel and the number of security personnel. If you have over a 1,000 students and over 60 members of staff then certainly one security guard isn’t enough given the things that are happening in the wider society,” Redman emphasised.
Shepherd also raised another issue.
He said that even though principals had the legal authority to discipline a child there were repercussions which were worrying the teachers.
The incident involving Broomes and the wider issue of security in schools is expected to the discussed when BAPPSS meets next Tuesday.
Police Public Relations Officer Inspector David Welch said that the incident stemmed from Broomes speaking to the student yesterday and again today about her tardy attendance. She went to school with her mother but reportedly left and returned with two men, one of whom purported to be her father. The men went to the office where one of them allegedly assaulted the principal, knocked off his spectacles and left along with the student and her mother.
Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of the Education Senator Harry Husbands, Acting Chief Education Officer Karen Best, and Senior Education Officer Joy Gittens went to the school to investigate the matter. firstname.lastname@example.org