Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Education minister wants school zone legislation

Published:Thursday | September 1, 2016 | 9:00 AMAndre Poyser

Minister of Education Ruel Reid has signalled a desire to introduce legislation that regulates the types of activities that can occur in the exclusive geographic areas in which schools are located.

Reid, who was responding to questions relating to issues regarding vending close to school property, is of the view that the immediate geographic area around schools should be designated as school zones.

This, he said, would empower school administrators and law enforcement officers to better police the vendors who ply their wares in the vicinity of educational institutions.

"It is something we may have to raise legislatively in terms of defining school zones, and, having defined and put that in legislation, you give the school and the police authority to regulate all activities within a particular radius around the school," he said while addressing a back-to-school press conference hosted at the ministry's head office in Kingston yesterday.

Regulating vendors

Reid argued that the legislation was needed because principals and police officers do not have jurisdiction over the areas surrounding schools.

According to Reid, the jurisdiction rests with the local authorities who, he indicated, have been non-committal in their approach to regulating school vendors.

"One of the challenges with regulating vendors is determining who has absolute jurisdiction. The school does not have jurisdiction, the police doesn't have jurisdiction, and they say it's with the local authorities," he said.

The minister further indicated that he would be monitoring those schools that continued to face issues with vendors who sold close to the property. He echoed the endorsements of principals who have fostered good relationships with the vendors and who have formalised their engagement by inviting them to sell on the school property.

In referencing the ministry's school safety and security policy, which was revised last year, Reid noted that the policy charges principals with responsibility for the school compound but does not establish absolute control for the surrounding areas.

Aspiration number two of the policy gives principals effective control over the physical domain of the school.

Reid said the proposed legislation would make the policy more effective by expanding the defined control area around schools in which principals could have authority.

"The school is an institution in its own right and space. Its boundaries should be clearly defined and protected. The boundary of the school is as much defined by the rules governing conduct and behaviour as the structures around the physical domain," the policy document said.

"Schools are the nurseries of society, and as such, they must offer a protected and controlled environment for students."

andre.poyser@gleanerjm.com