Nadisha Hunter and Jodi-Ann Gilpin, Gleaner Writers
As violence continues to be of growing concern in public education institutions, the Ministry of Education is moving to upgrade the powers of the deans of discipline as one way to stem the problem.
Education Minister Ronald Thwaites told The Gleaner recently that he was lobbying the Ministry of National Security for the professionals to have similar powers as special district constables.
"Certainly the deans of discipline have been asked and we have put forward to the ministries of national security and justice that they be given the powers of special district constables because sometimes they do need to restrain persons who get out of control in the school community and I am hoping that will help," he said.
Additionally, he further added that the ministry would continue to use the presence of the police in the troubled institutions, but at the same time he was calling for the communities to play their parts in keeping the schools safe.
"We are continuing the programme of collaboration with the national security and the police in the places where there is particular danger. We can't afford to put a fence in all schools and we shouldn't have to afford that," he argued.
"Communities must own the schools, we must strive after partnership between neighbourhoods, the principals and the officials of the schools as the schools are sanctuaries for the community and must be treated as such," he added.
Police Force ready
Head of the Safe Schools Initiative, Superintendent James Forbes, has reassured the country that the Police Force is ready for the new school year.
Forbes said training sessions have been taking place across the island, to prepare staff members for the days ahead.
"A number of training programmes have been implemented in order to get our staff members prepared for the new school year in terms of their own preparedness and security issues. We have addressed every area except for Area Five which includes St Thomas, St Andrew North and St Catherine north and south, which will begin on Monday (today)," he said.
Forbes also said schools in challenging parishes such as St Catherine and St James will be given special attention by the police.
"We are ready for back-to-school and we are aware that there are some challenging areas such as St James and St Catherine and so we are getting everything in order and preparing our staff especially in those areas," he said.
The ministry has been having security challenges in the schools over the years.
This has led to the employment of the deans of discipline who implement the ministry's behaviour-management strategy for schools, which seeks to ensure the overall security, safety, and well-being of students and staff.
Despite this, there were a number of stabbing incidents involving students across the island last year.