NEW National Parent-Teacher Association (NPTA) president Walter Stewart has proposed an initiative similar to the Military-Led Academic Training (MiLAT) programme to address deviant behaviour among female students.
He made the proposal on Wednesday after last Friday’s incident in which a group of female students at the Signal Hill Secondary School, Tobago, assaulted one of their classmates.
A two-minute video of the incident went viral. In the video, several girls were seen insulting and slapping another female student repeatedly in a classroom as others jeered and shot videos of the fight.
At one point during the commotion, the victim tried to fight back, but fell to the ground. She tried to shield herself from the blows by hiding under a desk, but the others started kicking her before she eventually got up. The students later walked away.
Last week, Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly announced at a news conference that disruptive students will not be left unsupervised after expulsion, but will be enrolled in the MiLAT programme as part of the ministry’s mandatory policy to clamp down on anti-social behaviour within the education system.
The MiLAT targets at-risk young men aged 16-20.
She said student misconduct was a major concern of her ministry and students prone to violent behaviour would not be allowed to distract others.
On Wednesday, Stewart noted Signal Hill Secondary has had several successes in recent times, including being on the Caribbean merit list for its achievements in certain disciplines in the CXC and CAPE (Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations).
“It is really heart-wrenching on understand that a school with so many successes could have among its peers a minority of students who will be engaged in deviant behaviour,” he told Newsday.
“That’s why, in our recent appeal to the Minister of Education, whilst we applauded her for the initiative of the MiLAT programme among males, we did emphasise as well the need, importance, necessity for having such a programme among females.”
Stewart said quite a number of students involved in the fight were girls.
“So that there needs to be some kind of programme in place to handle our deviant female students as well.”
He commended the school for taking action.
“I am told that punitive measures were already put in place, the matter is in the hands of the police and all of the offenders, from our information...have been duly punished.”
Stewart said the NPTA believes once students “run afoul of what is the required norm, punitive action should be immediately taken.”
THA Secretary of Education, Research and Technology Zorisha Hackett, in a post on Facebook, said: “I want to unequivocally condemn this act of violence. Our schools must be sanctuaries of learning, growth and mutual understanding therefore the behaviour displayed in this video is an affront to the values we hold dear.
Hackett said the incident demanded a comprehensive and thorough investigation, and staff at the division, the principal and staff of the school, parents and the PTA, law enforcement and other relevant stakeholders should ensure those responsible are held accountable.She said swift and decisive measures would be implemented to address this specific incident and to prevent future recurrence.
Recognising that school violence in all its forms has far-reaching consequences for the well-being of students and the integrity of the education system, Hackett said it was imperative that the psychological underpinnings of such acts were confronted.
“The division must also work earnestly to foster environments where empathy, tolerance and conflict resolution prevail over aggression.”
Hackett said the division’s commitment extended beyond immediate retribution to implementing robust preventative measures.
“Intensifying efforts to educate students, parents, and educators on recognising early signs of aggression and fostering open channels of communication to address issues before they escalate is therefore paramount.”
She added comprehensive programmes focused on conflict resolution, empathy-building and mental-health support must be integrated into the education framework.
“This regrettable incident underscores the urgency of cultivating a culture of respect, kindness and responsibility within our schools. Let it now serve as a reminder that we all play a role in creating safe and nurturing environments for our students.”
Hackett said she empathised with the victim.
“While we await the report from the school’s principal, I extend my support to her and her family during this challenging time. Together, let us reaffirm our commitment to creating educational spaces where every student can thrive without fear.”