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Williams calls for change in students’ mindset to curb violence

Published:Saturday | October 1, 2022 | 12:10 AMKimone Francis/Senior Staff Reporter

On the heels of the stabbing death of 16-year-old Michion Campbell at the Kingston Technical High School, Education Minister Fayval Williams says stakeholders will have to go back to the drawing board on how students are nurtured.

In a Gleaner interview on Friday, Williams said that despite administrators’ vigilance and security mechanisms being in place at schools, incidents of violence were still occurring.

“We’ve lost essentially two students – one through stabbing and the other, I don’t know what her life will be like now; it will be different – and there is great sadness all around,” the minister said on Friday, following a consultation session on national grooming policy at Wolmer’s Boys’ School in Kingston.

Campbell died from injuries she sustained when she was reportedly held and stabbed repeatedly by her 17-year-old schoolmate during a dispute on Thursday on the grounds of the Hanover Street-based institution in downtown Kingston.

“If you’re searching children coming in, you have metal detectors, you have these different professionals in the schools, and yet this happens,” Williams lamented. “It’s saying that there’s something else that we need to do.”

The education minister said that stakeholders will have to seek out a better understanding of the homes from which children are leaving for school. She said that many homes and communities were dysfunctional, resulting in angry children showing up at schools.

Williams told The Gleaner that the student taken into custody following the deadly brawl had displayed behavioural challenges prior to the incident.

Disclosing that she had been fully briefed on the details leading up to what she called a tragedy on all levels, Williams noted that there were previous reports of the student being boisterous and disruptive.

“We have a lot of work to do in our schools. We have a lot of work to do with our children. But I think if we are able to do the work that we need to do with our parents, that will help the situation,” she said, adding that it is important to help the latter group understand the impact of trauma their behaviours may have on children.

In a Gleaner interview hours after the tragedy on Thursday, Deputy Superintendent Linval Phoenix, head of operations for the Kingston Central Police Division, recommended that school administrators collaborate with the police to conduct more unannounced searches at institutions across the country to find potentially deadly weapons and other prohibited items.

He noted that regardless of the security measures in place, there will always be a need to ramp up searches at schools, especially those plagued by violent clashes and disorder.

He also suggested that administrators probe deeper to find out why students feel the need to arm themselves and whether gangs are being formed at schools.

On Friday, Williams agreed that the solution to the violence plaguing schools would need to go beyond installing additional metal detectors and conducting more searches.

“We have to deal with what’s happening in the minds and hearts of our children and what’s happening in the homes from which they come. If we can understand that and deal with those situations, I think we will see our children showing up at school in a different way – more open to learning [and] more open to relating better to each other.

“Those are the things we need to do. It’s not about more metal detectors or more searches or more police. It’s about the human being, the whole child and the family that’s behind that child,” she said.