Over 30 recommendations are headed to the Ministry of Education to make the island’s schools safer for teachers, said president of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union, Mary Redman, who promised the list before the end of the week.
But the union leader has also called for the army to be called out to schools to fill in for overstretched police manpower.
The original suggestions were made to then Minister of Education Ronald Jones three months before the General Election of 2018, but he failed to act on them, Redman claimed as the union held an emergency meeting on school violence at Solidarity House.
The meeting, which brought classes nationwide to a halt at midday, is the latest response to last week’s fatal stabbing of 16-year-old Temario Holder at the Frederick Smith Secondary School at the hands of another student.
Redman said she hoped the updated recommendations, which include both short-term and medium-term goals, would be taken seriously by the current administration.
She said: “It is imperative therefore that there must be a combined approach from all stakeholders to ensure that there are no barriers to the types of appropriate interventions in which we must engage to fight this scourge.
“The union intends to ensure that the recommendations that we submit are enforced because this must never happen again… “This cannot and will not be a talk shop.”
Teachers want any student who commits an offence at school under the Offences Against a Person Act to be brought before the court the next day
They also call for serious penalties for students found gambling on school premises, frequent patrols and searches of school compounds, mandatory reassignment of students for assault on teachers and mandatory reporting of incidences of violence to the ministry by principals.
Additionally, Redman said they would be calling for cameras to be installed “in strategic places” at schools as well as the establishment of a long-overdue Special Committee on Violence.
During the almost four-hour long meeting, teachers from several of the island’s secondary schools used the opportunity to vent their experience of violent encounters at their schools.
One teacher at a St Michael school said that he witnessed a student in a fight armed with a sword. He said later that day he confiscated a knife from a third form student.
He also said it had been brought to his attention that there was a student at the school supplying other students with weapons.
The teacher told a shocked audience: “These children are bringing school weapons but I was also told that we have an arms dealer on our compound.
“One of the students in fifth form sells the knives to the younger ones and they pay $1.50 a week or $1.50 a day, it is a pay down plan.”
Another teacher said she witnessed students bearing weapons on the school’s compound on more than one occasion.
The BSTU president suggested Barbados Defence Force soldiers be utilized to help control the situation in schools, saying she understood that the Royal Barbados Police Force was undermanned.
Redman said: “We know the police force is stretched in terms of manpower but my suggestion is that the BDF can be used… simply because just the sight of soldiers always come across as more assertive in the eyes of persons.”