WHILE the welfare of children must always be paramount, it is in nobody’s interest if student violence is not dealt with severely.
Last Wednesday, a secondary school child verbally and physically attacked a dean, while on Monday a Standard Four student attacked a teacher at a primary school. Both incidents are serious and warrant urgent action to shield teachers fearful of their work environment and to begin a programme of rehabilitation for the students involved.
Disturbingly, there are reports that the code of conduct has been flouted at the La Romaine Secondary School where suspension pending investigation should have occurred. Though the dean had to seek medical attention it was only days later, and after a sit-in was apparently staged in the staffroom by teachers, that the principal confirmed a probe was on and addressed the student body.
An attack on a teacher is a violation enough. But a further breakdown of normal procedures in the wake of such an alleged attack compounds the situation. Both set poor examples. Both invite students to engage in a free-for-all.
It is not clear what counselling has been provided to the teacher and the student involved, a crucial matter that is often overlooked. This is only aggravated by reports that the student in question already had a history of concerning behaviour and that even the student’s parents have been accused of conduct that is unbecoming.
What, really, is going on?
The Student Support Services unit of the Ministry of Education must intervene and must also hold schools to account for any breaches of procedures. If a basic thing such as suspension pending an investigation is being flouted, what else has been allowed to fall by the wayside? The ministry needs a closer relationship with schools to ensure they comply with best practice.
Meanwhile, it is unfortunate teachers had to resort to staging a sit-in. While we cannot condone any action that penalises innocent children for the deeds of one errant child, we understand the obvious frustration that led to this action. However, we counsel teachers to seek more productive ways to get their point across.
For example, internal grievance procedures should be examined and utilised. Additionally, parent-teacher associations (PTAs) also have a stake in the management of these issues. PTAs should not hesitate to convene emergency meetings to address concerns. That is what they are there for.
It is a sad reality that school violence now seems part and parcel of the landscape. This should not be so. The dragging of feet by school authorities on incidents like these risks normalising what should be aberrations.