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Don't lose hope in 'leggo beast' children

Published:Friday | August 21, 2015 | 12:00 AMShanica Blair


I found so unfortunate the comments made by Education Minister Ronald Thwaites on the heels of National Security Minister Peter Bunting announcing that plans are being put in place to build a new maximum-security prison to the tune of $10 billion.

The minister said parents must not send their 'leggo beast' children to school and expect teachers to provide behaviour modification. That is what is wrong with our Government today. We can't be encouraging the school-to-prison pipeline any longer.

While the onus should be on parents to grow and train their children in the right way, a message like that from the minister sets a bad precedent. Let me break it down for you. If parents should keep their 'leggo beast' children out of the school system because of disruptive behaviour, keeping them in the origin of their angst and despondency - their homes and communities that are filled with negative influences - is just setting them on the path to crime. Forcing them out of school will just cause them to become confused, hardened, embittered, and falling behind in their studies - the perfect recipe for them to become hardened criminals.




Instead of telling parents to keep their children out of school, provide more support and training to teachers for effective discipline, as well as mandate schools to use best practices for behaviour modification to keep our children in school, where they belong.

Keeping at-risk children in school can be very challenging for our educators, who are already under pressure, but if they should take a more responsive and punitive approach in the classroom, students are more likely to adjust.

Like the minister said, you can't be one person at home and another at school; you have to be someone who commands respect. I know from experience that the more respected a teacher is, the fewer problems he or she is likely to have with 'leggo beast' children.

Students with behavioural problems need clear and specific education, not the assumption that they should know better. Positive reinforcement can't be underestimated. Many say this won't work, but these children see themselves as bad and not intelligent, thus why should they bother to behave or even try?

They need to be given the chance to believe in themselves and to feel like someone believes in them, but sadly, there is no chance for that because the minister says that's not their problem - the parents should be responsible. Funny enough, many of these children are from very stable homes and oftentimes parents are unaware of how they behave outside of the home until they are called in by the school.




Keeping students with behavioural problems out of school is not the solution. Find some alternatives to keeping them at home. Give them a structured and disciplined environment, a chance to achieve as much academically as they can, and a chance to earn their way back into the regular classroom.

Educating parents on positive reinforcement methods is just as important as educating the teachers as well. Parents need to understand that it is not okay to leave everything up to our educators, and not blame the teachers when their offspring disrupts a class regularly.

Please keep in mind that other children in the class also have a right to an education, a right that is violated when there is constant disruption that calls the teacher away from teaching and towards focusing on the disruptive child.

I certainly don't have all the answers, but I know that in order to help these students, we need to look at what is needed to become successful in our society and find ways to implement systems to support that.

Stop the blame game and look for ways to make it better. It is Jamaica's problem, and our society needs to stop pointing fingers and find constructive ways to deal with the issue without blaming teachers, students and families.

- Shanica Blair is master's student at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies, UWI Mona. Email feedback to or