A crisis we must all confront
Jaheim Colman, who was assaulted reportedly over Clarks shoes.

Last Thursday's vicious assault by a BB Coke High School grade 11 student on a younger schoolmate, 14-year-old Jaheim Colman, which left the latter close to death, reminds us that there is a huge problem with violent behaviour at all levels.

It seems to us that it wasn't just the assault — resulting, we are told, from the victim losing his balance, stepping on the older boy's shoe and grabbing his jacket — which reflected instability.

Also off kilter, it appears, were others, including security personnel and students, who witnessed the incident on the school campus, close to the centre of rapidly growing Junction in south-east St Elizabeth.

As school board Chairman Mr Cetany Holness, councillor for the Junction Division (Jamaica Labour Party – JLP) is reported as saying, security personnel assigned to the school will need to account for what appears to have been their very puzzling lack of action.

We hear that rather than intervene to help the victim, some children opted to take pictures and videos with their cellphones — rapidly circulating same via social media platforms and so forth.

What of teachers, school administrators and other staff? No one saw?

We hear that it took half an hour for the school leadership to learn of the incident. That's far too long for any school, in our view.

In that regard, a report from a relative of the victim suggesting that a teacher at BB Coke High reacted in hostile fashion to her phone call seeking guidance is extremely disturbing.

In fact, it seems only about three boys who went to their friend's assistance — lifting and carrying the injured child about 500 metres to a doctor's office close to the centre of Junction — can now hold their heads high, having done the correct and honourable thing.

We are told that on that torturous walk to the doctor no adult sought to help.

A 14-year-old boy, Dejaun Powell, who is said to have led the way in helping the injured child, is reported as saying that apart from two friends "…Nobody [else] offered to help us; everybody was just asking 'What happened?'"

We suspect there are some adults in the Junction area who are now asking themselves serious questions.

Obviously there will have to be significant introspection at BB Coke High in the aftermath of this incident. We expect the Ministry of Education, mental health specialists, et al, will help.

We are told that the alleged assailant — now in police custody — had a record of disturbing behaviour. Was there any attempt, over time, to get him psycho-social help?

Also, this can't only be about BB Coke High. All schools should take stock and learn lessons.

We are aware that in recent years the Ministry of Education has stepped up efforts to pay closer attention to mental health for students and adults in schools. This incident underlines the need.

Beyond schools, widespread violence and horrendous assaults on young children — including rape and murder — carried out by adults, reflect a society that is not only crime-ridden, but one in a worsening crisis.

What happened at BB Coke High last Thursday afternoon is yet another call to action for all of us.

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