Mon | Feb 19, 2018

Plaza ban! - Students barred from shopping mall

Published:Sunday | January 7, 2018 | 12:00 AMCorey Robinson
A teacher speaks to students of the Pembroke Hall High School.

A ban imposed last year on students of Pembroke Hall Primary and Pembroke High School from entering the nearby Boulevard Supercentre while in uniform, unless accompanied by an adult, will remain in place this year despite calls for it to be lifted.

Norma McNeil, principal of the primary school, told The Sunday Gleaner that the ban has been imposed for the children's safety.

"You see, we have to protect them from themselves; because sometimes they are tempted," said McNeil, as she noted that she has had reports of her students engaging in unruly behaviour at the shopping centre.

"You just want the children to go home. We don't want them to be loitering on the plaza. Some of them go and see adults over there and beg," said McNeil.

"We are trying to get rid of that so we say 'when the bell goes, go straight home'," added McNeil.

She said while she understands that some students will save their money and genuinely want to visit restaurants on the plaza with friends, they are only allowed to do so in the company of a teacher or their parents while in their uniform.

"If they are going to buy and then go home it would be no problem. But is when they are going on the slide, touching up each other, go into the stores and shoplift ... and the first place they are calling is the school," she said, adding that teachers have had to collect students who have found themselves in trouble at the plaza.

In the meantime, the Reverend Claude Ellis, principal of Pembroke Hall High, said he too has received reports of students fighting and behaving unruly at the shopping centre.

As a result, students in uniform must seek a pass from his office if they want to visit the mall unsupervised. He, however, questioned the financial viability of the ban.

"To be honest with you, I think the shopping centre is losing. I have 1,208 students. If 400 of my children spend $400 a week, some might spend $400 a day, just think of the amount of revenue the plaza would have lost," said Ellis.

But store operators in the mall told The Sunday Gleaner that despite the possible losses the ban has to remain as they cannot deal with the lewd and unruly behaviour by some of the students.

From cursing security guards to fighting, breaking property and having sex in the bathrooms, the students have become a nuisance.

"Every school has bad kids, but I think some of the worse sets of students come from this area. They will come and they will fight to the extent that they will break glass on the mall, and we end up having to incur the cost," property manager Courtney Jackson told The Sunday Gleaner.

"It's terrible. I've had to speak with some principals about the behaviour. Some of the children try to run through the security post even though the security guards are stopping them. It's a challenge," added Jackson as he noted that some students are still bent on entering the mall by any means.

"We have to actually be policing the bathrooms ... I can't even leave tissue inside the bathrooms, they (students) come and wipe their shoes and wash their faces, mess up the bathroom. They don't know the expense," added Jackson.

Some security guards at the shopping centre claimed that high-school students have been caught having sex in the bathrooms, and that in other cases, even primary school students have been found in compromising positions on the mall. They said they dread the reopening of schools tomorrow.

Hubert Ellis, store manager at Woolworth, said shoplifting by students is common, but in some cases understandable.

"Some of them will come in and take up sweetie and things like that because you know they are kids, and sometimes some of them are just hungry. So at times we just let them go," he continued.

One manager at Lee's Food Fair explained that students shoplift there "all the time. Some of them think they are smart so they will take things up and think that we don't see them," said the manager.

Last week, some parents of nearby Maverley appealed to The Sunday Gleaner for the ban to be lifted, as they claimed their children were being punished and were not part of the unruly crew.

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com