Sat | Jan 19, 2019

Unfair & untrue - Two ninth-graders push back after school is labelled violent

Published:Sunday | January 28, 2018 | 12:00 AMCorey Robinson
Junior Gooden (left) and Cyril Hinds took on the job of defending the good name of their school, Brown’s Town High.
Principal of Brown’s Town High School Alfred Thomas (centre) flanked by vice-principals Sydonne Brown-King (left) and Pauline Marston-Tomlinson, looking at one of the letters published by The Gleaner from two grade nine students of the school.
A security guard at Brown’s Town High School in St Ann with one of the hand-held metal detectors.

Stunned by the disclosure of Education Minister Ruel Reid that their school was one of the four selected to be outfitted with hand-held and walk-through metal detectors to stem violent incidents, two grade nine students of Brown's Town High embarked on a mission to defend the reputation of the institution.

Cousins Junior Gooden and Cyril Hinds were not about to let the negative publicity about the St Ann-based school go unchallenged.

They wrote letters to media houses and gathered the signatures of more than 100 of their classmates in a petition against the reports.

"Brown's Town High is not violent. The children here, everyone are friends. It doesn't matter what grade or what class, we all interact with each other. It is like a family," said Gooden.

"I came to Brown's Town High in grade seven, and I have witnessed only one incident, no other. So, it was unfair also for the students who transferred here and who have done nothing wrong. Still, the school is being called a violent school," added Hinds.


Securing signatures


The boys explained how they tirelessly went about trying to secure signatures from the 1,996 students enrolled at the shift institution.

They even sought the signatures of teachers and members of the administrative staff.

Reid, last November, listed Brown's Town High among the first four schools to receive the metal detectors donated by the United States Agency for International Development.

The education minister said that it was part of a long-term strategy to socialise and help build resilience and self-control in the nation's high schools.

All four of the schools reported incidents in which students had been stabbed, including the stabbing of Jamala Barnaby, a grade 11 Brown's Town High student who was killed reportedly during an altercation with a grade 10 student.

Last Wednesday, Brown's Town principal Alfred Thomas, while lauding the two students, said that the idea for the metal detectors came before the stabbing incident at the school.

"It was the previous board that had written to the then minister of education requesting metal detectors because of the high number of students," said Thomas.

"Because of the number of students that we have coming here and the time it would take to physically search them, it would be easier to use metal detectors," added Thomas.


Noticeable change


He said that the metal detectors have helped to noticeably reduce the number of violent clashes among students.

While Thomas could not give numbers, he said that there has also been a marked reduction in the number of weapons confiscated from students at the school since the installation of the machines last year.

"There are some issues among some of us here, but we are not violent. So I told the students, 'Express yourselves in writing', and they went and penned it," said Thomas of Gooden and Hinds, whose determination, he said, embodies the teachings of Brown's Town High School.

One of two vice-principals, Pauline Marston-Tomlinson, said that the boys decided to rebut the news reports on their own.

"They stood up, they wrote on their own, and they said, 'All we need from you is to edit it, and for you to verify the email address for the editor.' They did everything completely on their own," said Marston-Tomlinson.

Fellow vice-principal Sydonne Brown-King said that the courage of the two grade nine boys will inspire their fellow students.

"There are children who didn't pass their exams and may look at themselves as failures, but when they come here, we have to try very hard to motivate them," said Brown-King.

She noted that Brown's Town High has excelled in a host of extra-curricular activities and in academics over the years.