The 17-year-old Kingston Technical High School (KTHS) student who was involved in the fatal stabbing of her schoolmate last Thursday afternoon is now facing a murder charge.
Police sources said the teen was charged late Monday afternoon after a long question-and-answer session.
The stabbing death of Michion Campbell during a fight between both students on the school compound left students and teachers traumatised, resulting in Education Minister Fayval Williams visiting KTHS on Monday morning and promising to roll out a programme designed to help students de-escalate conflict.
"I have reached out to the minister of justice," she told students and teachers during a sombre morning devotion. "The Ministry of Justice has a restorative justice programme that can help our students understand how to de-escalate conflict situations when they arise, how to interact with each other peacefully, how to resolve disagreements, how to speak to each other, and how to work together rather than it resulting in fights and arguments.
"I don't believe we have taught you enough about how to handle those situations in which you find yourselves. As an education ministry we are going to take it on to support Kingston Technical High School so that you can even go back home and help to teach your parents how to interact with each other, so that when you come to school you are not feeling angry and upset and want to take it out on somebody else. You are in a stage of your life that you should be enjoying and fulfilling your potential," the minister said.
Williams drove home the point that, even with metal detectors, the school was not able to prevent the accused from having a ratchet knife in her possession on the compound, and said the focus now should be reaching the hearts and minds of the children and their parents.
She said that, as they grieve, many of the students will find it hard to cope and therefore will need psychosocial help.
"You are going to continue to ask the questions, you are going to sometimes, in the middle of the night, wake up and remember your schoolmate. Many of you were present when it happened and we need to give you special psychosocial support to help you deal with all the emotions you continue to feel," Williams said.
While extending condolence to the families of both the deceased and the accused, the minister advised against casting blame.
"We have been hearing stories that there has been a lot of blame going on here, blaming of teachers, dean of discipline and everyone. I want to say to you that it is not the moment to blame. It is a moment for all of us to make our school a safer place. How can we ensure that when we come here, we come here to get the maximum that we can in terms of our learning," she said.
Last Thursday's tragedy was the latest in a series of violent clashes among students, especially since the resumption of face-to-face classes after the novel coronavirus pandemic forced an end to classroom instruction for two years.
On Monday, Janilee Abrikian, general manager of Peace and Love in Society (PALS), called for a serious injection of funds into the programme to help educators tackle the growing problem.
"We are eager to get into the schools to help them. Jamaica is a violent country. When violence is so entrenched in society it makes it very hard to change it, because it has taken a long time to get that way," Abrikian told the Jamaica Observer.
"Our work in schools is stymied. We could be doing workshops to help teachers recognise problem behaviours and understand the source and type of conflict as well as problem-solving strategies," she said.
"That is not happening because the teachers don't have the skills and the schools are located in inherently volatile communities," Abrikian said, arguing that teachers' colleges are not producing enough teachers who are trained in conflict resolution.
She said there needs to be an urgent shake-up of the way of life in Jamaica and pointed out that parents are a main source of the problems in society.
"We did a workshop in Jones Town about one month ago and it was chaos all day. The least of things they interpret it as an insult and there would be a fight. From 9:00 am to 3:00 pm we were putting out fights. This age group was 12 to 17. We even had an altercation between two girls and the mother of one of the girls came into our workshop room, took her daughter's cellphone, then hit the other girl and threatened to stab her. The girl was terrified." Abrikian stated.
PALS was founded in 1994 as Peace and Love in Schools and was geared towards influencing positive changes in behaviour through alternative dispute resolution techniques. It was renamed in 2004 to Peace and Love in Society.