'Look for sadness, gladness and madness'
Parents, teachers urged to watch for trauma signs among children amid rise in school violence
Senior legal policy officer at the Office of the Children's Advocate Shamsi Green said teachers need special training to deal with violent behaviour among students.

The recent spate in school violence has raised concern among officials in childcare and protection who have prompted educators and caregivers to pay attention to behavioural changes among children, which might be triggered by challenges in their homes.

The childcare representatives told the Jamaica Observer during HEART Trust/NSTA Garmex Academy's Parenting Workshop on Tuesday, that a holistic approach has to be developed to deal with the issues faced by the nation's youngsters.

"When children experience trauma, some of the signs that we should look out for are sadness, gladness and madness. It sounds funny but the truth is trauma changes how children behave. You have to look at the changes that are taking place," said dean of discipline at Cedar Grove Academy Antonio Baker at the event hosted by Group 3Q Early Childhood Care and Development under the theme, 'Help Mi nuh! Creating Mentally Healthy Children Amidst Domestic Violence.'

"Normally children tend to be playful and happy but then there comes a time when they become withdrawn. There comes a time when they look sad. They would sit and look in space, or other times when they don't want to have interactions with other children," said Baker.

Baker said parents, caregivers and teachers have to be vigilant, as obvious signs point out that "something is happening."

He also recommended that educators develop a profile of each student to make note of any changes in behaviour.

"ln terms of domestic violence and violence in schools, it is very important that we understand that children model their environment and sometimes it is the community. If they see that their immediate environment dealing with things a particular way, then they are going to draw from the environment and bring it into the schools," he said.

"When a child comes into your class, you need to create a profile for that child, you need to understand where the child comes from and the situation with the family. When these children start to exhibit behaviour, you'd go back to the files and see what's happening. Don't wait until the it becomes something on the national news," he added.

The latest case of school violence took place at Kingston Technical High School last Thursday, where a bloody fight led to the death of grade 11 student Michion Campbell.

In March of this year, Khamal Hall, a William Knibb High School student, was also stabbed to death by another student at the Trelawny-based institution.

In reference to Baker's comments, executive director at Children First Claudette Richardson Pious questioned his suggestion about creating profiles for students. She also expressed concern about violence reduction efforts in schools.

"With all the realities of our present-day classroom, do our teachers have the time to do this [create profiles]? Is it that the school needs additional support? Is the guidance department adequately staffed?" she said.

"Are youngsters trained in peer support? Because in the case of Kingston Technical and all the children running around and jumping around, was there one peer educator who could run to call a teacher? Are we really serious about peace building and violence reduction when bad man thing run things everywhere? And to be a bad person is a stripe, it's glorified in some communities," Pious added.

Noting that "violence is everybody's business", Pious said a strategic plan has to be developed to deal with the violence.

"We really have to look at a whole resocialisation of our nation. It's really about starting at the grass-roots level in all communities, looking at life and the value of life," she shared.

At the same time, senior legal policy officer at the Office of the Children's Advocate, Shamsi Green, said teachers would need special training to tackle the aggressive behaviour among students.

"Many of the matters that come to us — it's a little bit overwhelming for them and we want to teach the children how and where to get help when they need it. Support system has to be in place, we have to implement programmes in the schools such as things that deal with mediation and helping them to resolve issues in a peaceful way and to build stronger character for them," she said.

Dean of discipline at Cedar Grove Academy Antonio Baker says educators should develop a profile of each student to make note of any changes in behaviour.
Executive director at Children First Claudette Richardson Pious says a strategic plan has to be developed to deal with the violence.
Brittny Hutchinson

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