Sun | Dec 17, 2017

Brown’s Town High School not violent at all

Published:Friday | November 24, 2017 | 12:00 AMOmar Oliphant

The enticement to refer to educational stakeholders as 'failing schools', 'leggo beasts', 'scammers' or 'violent' is seemingly becoming more frequent in some circles and, truthfully, its impact is even more demoralising than imagined. It is certainly not that schools do not daily contend with a multiple range of issues and desire to hide this in the sand, but modern leadership approaches to tackling systemic issues must facilitate better communication.

Consider, for example, the chilling effect on the educational community of Brown's Town High School, inappropriately categorised as a part of a 'Fearsome Four' most violent schools in Jamaica! (Lead story, The Gleaner, November 16, 2017). Not only is this far from the reality, statistics, and evidence, but it raises numerous questions. For certain, anything to assist in the improvement of school safety and security is to be welcomed, especially for the second-largest educational institution in St Ann. So, whereas the school welcomes the inclusion of the metal detectors amongst our varied suite of security measures, the data does not indicate that we are 'violent' at all.

 

Metal Detector

 

There are numerous benefits to a metal detector in a school community with just under 2,000 students on a shift system. It facilitates a swifter, more efficient use of time and human resources in searching students, it accelerates the identification of items not suitable for use, and it has a direct correlation to a reduction in injuries caused from varied sources.

Far then from being a 'luxury item' for select schools, it could very well be a necessity given the size of one's population and the available human and other resources to assist in security and risk management.

However, to categorise a school as 'violent' is a most significant evaluation. It seems to suggest that the school has been elevated way beyond 'normal', 'unstable', 'at risk' to the very highest category. It gives the impression that the frequency of violent activity has become normal and ingrained; not just spasmodic or infrequent, but integrated in school life.

It places the institution within a limited number across the island which may require its own zone of special operation. The financial effect of such pales in view of the deep psychological impact on students, parents and stakeholders. It taints a school, traumatises its workforce and drives a nation into fear. There must be a better way.

 

Need clarity

 

It is a requirement that schools tabulate and submit to the Ministry of Education their reported critical incidents during a month. Whereas there are quarrels, fights and other actions by students which disrupt normalcy within the learning environment, an objective review of Brown's Town High School's report does not indicate, in the board of management's view, any trend which supports The Gleaner's exaggerated headline, from wherever it may have come.

The school, admittedly, has room for growth, and every opportunity, measure and resource to assist in all areas are more than welcome. However, given the varied nature and degrees of violent activity within schools, the question must be asked, what variables are used to assess the levels at which critical incidents amount to? How are these measured to equate to the same level? Does one incident of injury or death suffice? Could one incident in a school's 50 year history (as devastating as it really is) be the substance of an objective analysis warranting a current labelling as a 'violent school' years later?

- Omar Oliphant is Chairman of the board of management of the Brown's Town High School and writes on behalf of the board. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and bthschairman@gmail.com