A senior member of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration is urging Minister of Education Ronald Jones to reconsider his opposition to the use of metal detectors in secondary schools as a means of helping to reduce the increasingly worrying levels of violence involving weapons.
In fact, taking it a step further, Minister of Health John Boyce is suggesting that in addition to detectors, the Ministry of Education should also sanction the searching of students entering school compounds.
He made the suggestions in Parliament today as the issue of violence came under the microscope during debate on the Barbados Sustainable Recovery Plan (BSRP) and the 2018-19 Estimates.
“I am seeing a different Barbados and I would even want to urge my colleague, the Minister of Education, that he may have to rethink what up until now has been one where they are not necessarily comfortable with – the presence of metal detectors in the schools. It is a very serious thing,” Boyce said.
“We obviously have a very serious problem with violence in our country and the attitudes of some of our adults who are guiding the minds of our children. Therefore, it will take serious action on our path to see to it that the criminal element will not exist with such freedom in our society as to make this wonderful country that we have gotten to know, impossible to live in.”
Jones has in the past dismissed such recommendations as “foolishness”, arguing that “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,” the Minister of Education said in an address at The Ellerslie School in the wake of an incident there last November 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 also said then those who called for scanners were blowing the incident out of proportion.
Despite the rising use of weapons by students, proponents of the idea, including the Barbados Union of Teachers and Crime Stoppers Barbados have been unsuccessful in convincing Jones that scanners were the way to go.
Only yesterday, Chief Education Officer Karen Best reiterated the ministry’s position on the issue, telling a news conference to address the stabbing at St Leonard’s Boys’ School, which left two 16-year-olds nursing injuries and two 15-year-olds detained by police, that metal detectors would not work.
“I need you to explain to me how the metal detectors would work in that situation. Our schools in Barbados are not built for the use of metal detectors. Metal detectors are used in situations where you have one entrance and one exit. Our schools are not designed that way . . . .At this point in time, we do not need metal detectors in our schools. The ministry will not support placing metal detectors in our schools,” Best maintained.
However, Boyce appeared convinced that it would help reduce the use of weapons by the students.
He also said perhaps the time had come for “a discussion” on expanding the stop-and-search powers given to teachers who suspect students of carrying weapons, to a policy of searching all students before they enter the school grouds.
He tecalled being searched before entering the premises of the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic (SJPP) in the past, and advised the Minister of Education and the team at the ministry “to have a discussion with the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic principles so as to speak to that matter”.
“But there is definitely a clear indication that the ship of state has to be righted not only in respect to our economic situation, but our social position and certainly our behavioral patterns as it comes to our young people and regretfully, to some adults who have the duty of care of these young people,” Boyce said.