Stakeholders to discuss way forward after alleged threatening voice note

Observer staff reporter

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

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EDUCATION Ministry officials and school administrators, inclusive of the Wolmer's Boys School board chairman, are set to meet today to discuss the way forward after an alleged threatening voice note was sent to a teacher by a 17-year-old student of the institution.

The Education Ministry, through a press release, indicated that it will be assisting the police today with a psychological assessment of the student that is alleged to have made threats of violence and murder in the voice note.

Yesterday, on arrival at the institution, the student and his parents were taken in for questioning by detectives from the Counter-Terrorism and Organized Crime (C-TOC) investigation branch of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, led by Assistant Commissioner of Police Fitz Bailey.

In the more than 10-minute-long voice note, which comes on the heels of last week's mass killing at a Florida school, the student expressed his frustration with his peers who did not answer their phones when he called after they had vowed to always be there for him.

In the voice note, he is heard explaining how he would carry out acts of violence, stating that he was aware he might be arrested, and likened his actions to a social experiment.

He also complains about being “ostracised” and society putting him in “a box with sickos”, before he lists close to 20 names and made a threat, also stating that he knew where they lived.

The Education Ministry's press release also stated that, based on reports, the student indicated he would have attempted suicide twice before. The ministry also said a relative interviewed said the teenager was found reading a book that has the numbers “666” on the cover. The book was subsequently destroyed.

When the Observer contacted ACP Bailey about 6:15 pm yesterday, he said that the student was still being questioned, this time in the presence of his lawyer.

He confirmed that the Education Ministry, along with the Child Development Agency, has made contact to provide psychological support to the youngster, but he maintained that investigations were still ongoing.

“We are still doing investigations, and our next move depends on what comes out of our investigations. We are, however, following all leads,” ACP Bailey said.

When contact was made with Wolmer's Boys' School yesterday, Principal Dr Walton Small said he was made aware of the voice note on Sunday night at around 11, after which he got in touch with the police, who met school administrators before the start of school yesterday on the institution's compound.

Dr Small, who described the student at the centre of the ordeal as “very bright”, said the next move is dependent on what the police investigations uncover.

Meanwhile, Dr Small added that safety and security remain a top priority at the school. He assured the public that there is no need for extreme concern.

“There is no need for any panic by the public, parents, teachers, or students of the school,” Dr Bailey said.

In the meantime, today's meeting will address the general safety and security of the school, risks, threats and areas that may need strengthening.

Director of the safety and security programme in schools, Assistant Superintendent Coleridge Minto, said along with the investigation and today's meeting, the ministry is working on a policy that will implement time out facilities that will offer therapy to students with behavioural issues.

“Generally speaking, students on the verge of being suspended or displaying behavioural issues will be sent here for treatment and therapy before being reintegrated into the standard school system. Hopefully, by the end of 2018, it will be implemented,” he said.

He added that educators are also being trained in restorative justice with the Ministry of Justice to utilise a different form of intervention when helping to solve interpersonal conflicts between students and their peers.

Minto maintained that outside of the physical environment being secure, the holistic development of children and influencing positive behavioural change are paramount.

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