The head of the nation’s high school teachers’ union has stepped up calls for greater security measures at schools, declaring that teachers across the island are under attack.
Mary Redman, the president of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU), described school violence as a “scourge” which had been allowed to fester and grow.
Speaking at the union’s emergency meeting yesterday at Solidarity House, Redman revealed that the number of student-on-teacher attacks had increased in the last six months. Up to May, the figure was five for the year, she said.
Redman said: “On May 18 of this year, coming out of an emergency meeting we had with our members the week prior based on student-on-teacher violence, there had been five reported cases of student-on-teacher violence and there have been more since then.”
The outspoken union leader said the attacks had left teachers no longer feeling safe at school.
“Violence in schools is a public health issue regardless of who that violence is directed against.
“Teachers like all other workers have the right by law under the Safety and Health At Work Act to work in a safe environment provided for them by the employer, whether that employer operates in the public or private sector.
“The same holds true for students in the system.
“The BSTU places on record that it is fully satisfied that too many of its members no longer feel safe physically and mentally and too many feel unable to provide their duty of care for the students,” Redman said.
She also accused police of not acting quickly enough on reports made to them about violent students.
She said the police did this so as to not criminalize those students, but suggested the inaction could prove to be more harmful to those children later in life.
“The police have traditionally often been slow to act against cases involving students that have been reported to them and they state this because they don’t want to criminalize students.
“My thing is if you don’t criminalize them at 13, they become criminals at 16.
“Too often cases reported to the police are referred back to the schools.
“They often refer back to the schools, which are too often impotent to act and issues often criminal that need to be seriously addressed so that the right message can be sent to these students.”
Redman also agreed with the notion put forward by both Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw and psychiatrist Dr Ermine Belle that the actions of violent students were a reflection of the wider society.
Schools and teachers no longer had the support of parents when it came to disciplining their children, the union boss declared.
She said: “The behaviours of students reflect the society whose morals and a sense of right from wrong have changed so drastically and so quickly from what it was, a society where no one wants to suffer consequences for their actions.
“Through poor parenting and a lack of parental support for the school in its attempts to discipline, the children are not taught they are consequences to their actions.
“We have said this repeatedly.”