The brutal wave of violence in schools across Barbados is being motivated by factors vastly different from those which motivated it years ago and according to a senior guidance counselor, the shift is resulting in unprecedented vicious fighting tactics by some children.
During a panel discussion on violence held at Queen’s College on Thursday, Guidance Counselor at the Graydon Sealy Secondary School and Managing Director of Parent Empowerment Network, Donna Tull-Cox said based on her research and practical experience, there is now an overwhelming dependence on potentially deadly weapons, from a very young age.
Her revelation came just hours after President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union, Mary-Ann Redman told Barbados TODAY that teachers were living in fear due to school violence, which she felt had not been adequately addressed by authorities.
During her contribution on the panel, Tull-Cox said the days of a student retaliating by ‘hitting back’ another were slowly coming to an end.
“We are not seeing that type of fighting anymore. We are now seeing the type of fighting that is calculated to pull you and your reputation down for the rest of your life.
“So when the girls are fighting, they are not just slapping, they are ripping each other’s clothes off to expose their breasts, pulling the hair to take out chunks, whether it is real or fake.
“The boys will fight too and there are a lot of the things we excuse as ‘boyish stuff,’ but what we’re noticing a lot more is that boys are no longer just fighting because they view another person as a real threat,” she said.
Instead, Tull-Cox indicated that boys are fighting, “to prove themselves to other people” so that they will not be a target and so that they can join and belong to some group of people who are going around committing other violent acts.
“So you would send to school your child who has done nothing wrong to anyone and someone would come along and pick on that child to fight, so that they can prove to somebody else they are cool or can hang with somebody else,” she said.
However, the veteran educator told members of the audience that even more disturbing was an overwhelming increase in the dependence of some children on deadly weapons.
She recalled: “ . . . Sitting down and talking to various groups of children who say they do not leave home unless they either have a weapon or they go someplace where they have already planted a weapon; and we’re talking young children; we’re not just talking about older teens.
“So you have people that say ‘I always have a knife or an ice pick or a scissors or something.’ ‘Why is that?’- ‘Because I need to have protection.’
Revealing that she has a daughter in her 20s and a 15-year-old son, Ms. Tull-Cox admitted she was worried about the safety of her children.
“ . . . Not because of what they might do to someone else, but because of how they might react if someone did something to them. So from a very early age, I instilled in them a certain level of confidence, so that when they were faced with certain types of active violence toward them in school, they stood and held their ground, because most of the violent children in school will move on if they cannot get to you.”
The guidance counselor however added that very often, much needed role models were absent in the lives of troubled children.
“What if nobody has taught you those skills? Most of the time, the adults in society will tell children, ‘don’t let nobody unfair you. Fight back and hold this piece [gun]’. They will tell children that rough sex is the way to go and if you see some of the videos that are circulating about children, you would realize what I mean. Even in the most intimate acts, it’s still a violent situation,” said the concerned counselor.