It is going to take more than metal detectors to restore confidence in the safety of Barbadian schools following last Friday’s fatal stabbing of a student on a school campus.
But the head of Crime Stoppers Barbados Oral Reid stopped short of endorsing teachers’ calls for the deployment of police officers and army soldiers to schools.
Reid, a security expert who is also the head of security at the University of the West Indies, described the slaying as a wakeup call for Barbadians to come to terms with the reality that the measures that worked for the school system decades ago do not have the same effect in 2019.
The retired senior police officer, who is also executive director of the Caribbean Association of Security Professionals, has called for specially trained security officers to operate within the school plants, installation of cameras covering the blind spots of the school compound, smart metal detectors and the installation of panic buttons.
Reid argued that while the police and the Barbados Defence Force have the requisite skill sets to secure the schools, he was concerned that such a move will be a drag on police resources while the army was not designed to intervene in civilian matters.
Reid said: “We have never recommended the big metal detectors as if you are in some custodial institution.
“Instead, we are looking at the deployment of smart detector solutions, which could be subsumed within the metal structure of a door frame and nobody needs to know that it is there.
“We have come to the stage since 2016 when we first identified this as one of the solutions, we have now had several incidents where students used metal objects, such as knives and daggers, that have no relation to the subjects they are taking.
“Apart from the detection, you need the resource persons to carry out the necessary checks.
“The average security officers that we have here now are not appropriately trained for this environment.
“So we first need to discuss how we can train that cadre of security officers to provide the support that is needed for our teachers and for the protection of our students.
“These officers must have the added assistance of cameras place around corridors, as it is with this data that they can investigate any problems”
Reid stressed that none of these security responsibilities, which include searching students, should be thrust upon teachers. He suggested this is neither their responsibility or a task for which they are trained to handle.
He said: “A teacher that accepts a position to teach students in a school environment, should only be engaged within the context of their job description. Teachers must not be expected to be trained as military officers and there is an obligation on the part of the state to give them a safe work environment.”
Reid acknowledged that the measures he proposed would be expensive, suggesting that they could be implemented incrementally.
He said: “We cannot hide from these issues; we have to face them head-on and see what we can implement incrementally.
“We may not be able to do all of the smart detectors in all of the schools but let’s do some of the schools, we may not be able to train all of the security officers one time but let’s move towards training some of them.
“We must accept psychologically that the school is not the same place as it was in the 1970s and 80s; it is changing.”
But Reid, a former deputy commander of community policing in the Royal Barbados Police Force, is warning against taking security measures to the extreme, noting that any changes to come must maintain an environment conducive to work and study.
He called for the creation of programmes to deal immediately with children whose behaviour may pose a threat to school safety.
He told Barbados TODAY: “You have some students, and I strongly believe that it is a minority of students, who present with this kind of behaviour.
“From the administration’s perspective, they have to examine how quickly they can deal with those individuals who present with challenges in the school environment.
“We have been doing the same thing over a period of time and those things have not worked, so we need new and creative means of tackling these challenges.”