Government is to consider changes to the contracts of security officers stationed at the island’s schools to include the protection of students and teachers.
There have been reports that security guards have been refusing to break up fights among students, because they claimed this was not part of their job description.
Minister of Education Ronald Jones said this morning this had to change and protection of personnel clauses would have to be written into the contracts of all such officers.
“We are going to have to look into that because the duty of care would not be stated in their job descriptions,” Jones told Barbados TODAY following a press conference at the Ministry of Education, where the worrying increase of school violence was addressed.
“As it stands the law would expect that as an adult you would take reasonable action to prevent these things from happening. That duty of care demands that these officers must take reasonable action to bring an annulment of bad behaviour. So it is saying to me that we might need all the agencies involved in the provision,” he stressed.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY on Tuesday following a stabbing at Grantley Adams Memorial School, which resulted in injuries to four students, President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) Mary Redman said she had informed the Ministry of Education back in 2016 about the concerns of the security officers.
However, she said even in the face of two stabbings involving school children in the space of a week, as well as a cutlass attack back in November last year in which a 17-year-old student of The Ellerslie School lost a finger, the ministry had yet to address this contractual ambiguity.
“The security officers are making it clear that their job is to protect the property and we have made that clear to the Ministry of Education. This is a problem for teachers because if the security guards are saying that they only are responsible for the property then they need to hire different security guards with the conditions of service which would involve protecting persons on the school plant,” Redman said.
However, Jones said the security officers were “badly informed” if they believed their only function was to guard property.
The minister acknowledged that the guards were working in an increasingly difficult environment where “the level of disrespect for law and order can be seen emerging within our society”.
Still, he said, they ought to behave like adults whenever there were skirmishes.
“Once you are legitimately on the school compound as an adult you have a duty of care in relation to those students. So any security officer who believes that they can just simply stand by and watch students destroy each other are badly informed,” Jones said.