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Nothing to fear

Principals' association president says metal detectors in schools a preventative measure

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Observer staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, November 16, 2017



PRESIDENT of the Association of Principals and Vice-Principals Otis Brown yesterday poured cold water on talk that schools singled out to receive hand-held metal detectors will be stigmatised.

Brown, who spoke to the Jamaica Observer after the handing-over ceremony of the metal detectors from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), said the electronic instruments will only serve to prevent further violent exchanges in schools.

“Yes, there are those parents who, because of the presence of these metal detectors in the schools, may say that the fact that those have to be there [means] the school may be one of those where children are likely to be harmed. However, we must also take preventative measures. We must be proactive in how we handle discipline and how we handle situations that affect schools. And so these metal detectors can also be seen as preventative measures and as schools acting proactively to prevent crime and violence or those things that will contribute to crime and violence creeping into our schools,” Brown told the Observer at the Courtyard by Marriott in Kingston.

Statistics provided by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information's School Safety and Security Unit showed that in the 2014/15 school year, more than 987 weapons were seized in schools. That was a 17 per cent reduction from the 1,186 seized in the previous year.

Brown, who is principal of Cedar Grove Academy, said that schools have a very difficult task of managing instances of indiscipline.

“It saps our energy; it saps our time. It takes away a lot from the teaching and learning process, and so educational institutions need help — the kind of help that we are getting today (yesterday) and help much deeper than today,” he said.

“Children come from a vast number of backgrounds and various communities, and a number of these communities are communities in which they are exposed to crime and violence. And so, within the school setting we try to instil in them that standard of discipline that is necessary for a school to operate effectively and, of course, in their best interest. But you find that sometimes you wonder if you are fighting a losing battle, for the reason that you try to instil positive practices at school and then they leave school and go back to poor communities and the children are contending or struggling as to which view they should hold. So, this is absolutely necessary,” Brown argued.

Five walk-through metal detector scanners and 130 hand-held metal detector wands will be handed over to some of the schools worst affected by violent and anti-social behaviours. Five schools — Anchovy High, Edith Dalton James High, Brown's Town High, Norman Manley High, and Spanish Town High are to receive the walk-through detectors first.

The National Education Trust is currently coordinating a two-year US$4-million project funded with US$3 million from USAID and US$1 million from the Government of Jamaica.

Education Minister Ruel Reid told the Observer that the idea is to have metal detectors in every high school in the country. There are 171 high schools.

“We are not resiling from a policy of safety and security because when something goes wrong, we have to be held accountable, and safety and security is now an international imperative. It is not a localised initiative; every country in the world has seen incidence of violence. To manage it, we have to have these proactive measures,” he said.

“This project will have a significant and positive multiplier effect on the social, economic and political landscape of our country,” Reid added.

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