The independent crime fighting charity Crime Stoppers Barbados is challenging Minister of Education Ronald Jones to reconsider his position on metal detectors in secondary schools here as means of curbing the worrying levels of violence involving weapons.
Jones has dismissed the idea of such security checks despite what the teachers unions say is a troubling rise in student-on-student and student-on-teacher violence.
However, Crime Stoppers Chairman Oral Reid told journalists at a news conference this morning at the Southern Palms Hotel in St Lawrence Gap, Christ Church, that given the frequency and gravity of the violent acts at school, it would be foolhardy to discount the use of technology in ensuring the safety of students and staff.
“I think that it [metal detectors] is absolutely important especially at this juncture when we appear to be embracing technology that every effort be used to engage that technology. We are not advocating the use of devices which are not aesthetically pleasing at the entrance of schools,” said Reid, who contended that Barbadians had already become used walking through security scanners at the various stores around the island.
“This is nothing new and all we are saying is that if you have an environment and you care about the people who occupy space, whether they are members of staff or students, every effort must be made to ensure that you have enough security persons at your entrance
and whatever technology can be engaged to assist with the safety of those persons,” he added.
In the wake of an incident at The Ellerslie School last month in which a student suffered lacerations to an arm and had one finger severed and another partially severed in a cutlass attack by another student, Jones strongly rejected calls for the installation of metal detectors at the school gates, stressing that he was not prepared to let the majority good students suffer because of few bad ones.
Addressing the launch of the school’s sixth form programme six days after the cutlass attack, the minister suggested that those who called for scanners were blowing the incident out of proportion.
“The majority of our children do not travel with sharp edged tools, with weapons of destruction. So Peter got to pay for Paul and Paul pay for all? If you have the metal detectors there the disobedient will stash their weapons outside. You don’t change society by patchwork, so don’t come asking me foolishness,” he said.
However Reid, a criminologist and former police officer, explained that while he could only guess the rationale for Jones’ position on the matter, it ran counter to the logic derived from his vast experience in law enforcement.
“As a person who has been in the security practice for more than 30 years I am very strong and passionate on this issue. I am well aware that the minister has taken a certain position but this may be a matter of cost; but I cannot think in terms of cost. I have to think in terms of safety and security and . . . that is the area of my orientation,” Reid said.
“We believe that the metal detectors would lend itself to the provision of an environment of safety and security whether they are at schools or other places where we value the lives of persons who utilize those spaces. Whereas the police recognize that firearms is a weapon of choice for society, we as a board recognize that in reported and unreported cases the statistics that students are entering schools with various other forms of weapons. We see this as a problem that has to be addressed by firm action, which includes conducting checks,” he stressed.