PORT OF SPAIN –– Classes at the Chaguanas North Secondary School were set to resume as normal today, albeit with an increased police presence.
Minister of Education Anthony Garcia said yesterday that police officials had agreed to maintain a “very visible presence” inside and outside the school compound at Helen Street, Chaguanas. This comes two days after classes were dismissed early because of a planned gun attack at the school by gang members who have close links with students attending the school.
It is alleged that the gang members planned to attack certain teachers and students because their associates had been reprimanded for indiscipline.
News of the “credible threat” was brought to the attention of the ministry, as well as the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) on Friday, which prompted an emergency meeting and forced officials to cancel classes for the remainder of the day.
Contacted via phone, Garcia revealed that he had spoken with Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon on the matter. Garcia said the number of security guards would be doubled from four to eight. The minister added: “If the situation warrants, we will have more.”
Admitting that this was a new level of school violence being displayed, Garcia described it as a “serious and troublesome issue”.
Revealing that he had already consulted the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services for their assistance, Garcia explained that this was “a societal problem and one which we do not want to escalate any further”.
Garcia said: “This situation has its genesis in the community and that seems to be migrating into that school.”
Garcia is expected to return to the school tomorrow at 9 a.m. TTUTA president Davanand Sinanan said his members who were assigned to the school had experienced “very real fear” which had prompted them to reach out to the association for help.
Sinanan agreed the violence had “reached a new level”, and it was up to the authorities to “take up the matter now”.
Sinanan said while there had been previous incidents of drug use, internal school violence, weaponry and teacher/student intimidation reported at that school, “it was nothing like this one”.
Relating an incident from last year when police were called to the school, Sinanan said a scratch bomb was lit and thrown at a police vehicle, but nothing was ever done about the issue.
Using this incident as a benchmark, Sinanan asked: “If there are students who are so emboldened and have no respect for the law, how do you think they will treat the teachers?”