No shortage of footage of school violence

Letters to the Editor

No shortage of footage of school violence

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

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Dear Editor,

If you have been paying attention to news reports in both traditional and social media you cannot help concluding that some students in Jamaican schools are out of control.

There have been reports of a student at a primary school engaging the school's principal in a physical confrontation culminating in the principal's doctor prescribing her some sick leave.

The dean of discipline at a high school was the recipient of a number of punches to his face courtesy of a 12th grade male student. The same 12th grade student was arrested days later after returning to school armed with an ice pick and making threats against the injured teacher.

One video making the rounds on social media records a brawl between a male and a female student at the same high school where the teacher was recorded threatening a student. The opening scene sees a teacher desperately trying to keep the combatants apart, but the students were bent on causing bodily harm. The teacher had to retreat when the fighters started hurling classroom furniture at each other with amazing dexterity as their classmates roared and captured cellphone footage.

Another video featured a fight involving three schoolgirls in their school uniforms. This brawl was of a more conventional nature replete with kicks, punches, and pulling of hair.

Yet another video surfaced featuring fighting school boys in uniform. This time it took the intervention of a policeman, who felt compelled to fire a warning shot.

Those are just the ones that have come to my attention, and I am assured there is no shortage of videos showing confrontations between students and teachers and student on student violence.

The minister with responsibility for education is suggesting social media is making the situation appear worse than it is, as incidents of violence in schools are relatively rare.

The president of the teachers' union disagrees and is calling for teachers to arm themselves with non-lethal weapons to defend themselves against attacks.

I find the union leader more credible as his members are in the direct line of fire. With many schools suffering from a shortage of teachers in critical subject areas, a solution to students' bad behaviour is urgently needed to prevent acceleration in teachers departing classrooms.

If a solution is not found, I would not be surprised if the teachers' union begins demanding a hazard allowance and teachers' dress code becomes suits of armour.

School administrators may also need to consider bolting school furniture to the floor, so they are not transformed into missiles.

On a serious note, though, we are a violent society and the behaviour in school is simply a reflection of the society. There is no silver bullet. We require a concentrated effort by all stakeholders (government, parents, students, teachers, church, and community) to pull us from the abyss of violence, incivility, and indiscipline into which we have descended.

Wayne Plummer

Greater Portmore, St Catherine

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