Handheld metal detectors may be in use at Frederick Smith Secondary and other schools before the end of the week, the Minister of Education said today, a possibility prompted by Friday’s stabbing death of a 16-year-old student by another.
In the meantime, all schools are to close at noon on Tuesday when teachers unions are to meet on the school violence crisis.
After meeting with several education figures, teachers at Frederick Smith, and officers of the Royal Barbados Police Force at Erdiston Teachers Training College, Santia Bradshaw told journalists that the ministry intended to ramp up resources at various schools to competently deal with issues of violence and other challenges.
She said: “We have looked at, not metal detectors in the strict sense of the word in terms of framed metal detectors, but we are exploring the hand detectors as an option particularly for the return to school on Thursday.
“We want to ensure that the plant is safe. At this stage while this tragedy has happened, I can give no assurances to the country that students may not have weapons on them next week.
“And therefore, it is important that the persons who have to work in the environment, as well as students who are not engaged in such activities in terms of possession of weapons, feel comfortable and their parents must feel comfortable, coming back to the Frederick Secondary School to be able to resume classes.”
The Minister said the security devices would not be used at all schools but at those where there have been “significant challenges”. She also said that as a precautionary measure, the time has come to consider conducting spot checks and random searches, as well as ensuring that points of entry were properly secured.
Bradshaw said: “The fact is that weapons are being found on our students.
“Some weapons are weapons that are located in a house; there are some that they have cleverly been able to create.
“Therefore it is clear to me that even though we are taking some precautions in this way, that the school plants themselves, whether it is a chair, a desk, there is a certain way to prevent any kind of injury taking place to students or teachers.
“That said, I think as a ministry we owe it to all concerned to take some steps not only to act in this way in relation to the issue of the searches and the random checks which the law already allows, but to put in place all of the things that are necessary to weed out the bad behaviour and deviant behaviour.”
The Education Minister said police have given the assurance that they would assist “as reasonably as possible” in handling some security issues at schools.
Bradshaw told reporters: “In relation to the issue of patrols, the issue of weapons being found by students and generally to have a presence in the vicinity of our school premises to send a very strong message that violence in any form will not be tolerated at the level of any of our education institutions.
“There is a declaration by all stakeholders that we are intolerant to any form of violence across the education institutions.”
The Minister reminded parents that their failure to work with the ministry or schools was not in the best interest of their children since the full cooperation of everyone involved was needed.
The Minister announced that classes will resume at Frederick Smith on Thursday with fifth formers, while the first to fourth form students would return on Friday.
She also asked that parents accompany their children to school.
Bradshaw said provisions had been put in place for continued counselling for teachers and students.
The ministry has also provided a helpline for parents and students at 535-0849 or 535-0853.
The Education Minister continued: “It is hoped that this level of counselling will continue to allow students as well as teachers to be able to address a number of the difficulties that they are having in dealing with what has transpired at this school.
And the necessary counselling support will continue at the Frederick Smith Secondary School until such time that it is deemed that it is no longer required.
“This is a very difficult time for all parties connected with this matter and my sympathies go out to the family of the victim as well as to all persons who have in any way been impacted by what has happened.
“This is a tragedy of the highest order for our country and certainly for our education system.” [email protected]