The Ministry of Education and Youth is to undertake a full audit of the extent to which metal detectors are being used in public schools beginning next Monday, March 28.
Portfolio Minister, Fayval Williams, has informed that the audit forms part of the Ministry’s response to reduce the incidence of violence among students by detecting and confiscating implements, such as knives and scissors, which have figured in altercations, several of them fatal.
Williams was speaking Friday, during a semi-virtual press conference on school safety and security. Her announcement follows several violent altercations in schools since the start of the year, two of which have resulted in fatalities.
The Education Minister said the Ministry’s records show that 36 schools were selected to benefit from the installation of walk-through metal detectors, of which 27 were put in place prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, she said the undertaking was interrupted by the pandemic.
Williams advised that since the full resumption of face-to-face classes, the Ministry’s Safety and Security in Schools Unit has re-engaged the services of a provider to complete the installations. She said the Unit also provided hand-held metal detectors to all public high schools, adding that as far as the Ministry is aware, “they are in pretty good working condition”.
“We still have some in our inventory and these will be made available to replace any defective device as the need arises,” she stated. She said the audit of the metal detectors, which is expected to be carried out during the course of next week, is intended to identify any gaps relating to the provision and/or utilisation of these devices.
“We are directing our schools to use these daily as a preventative measure. To the extent that our schools are able to take away a knife or a [pair of] scissors or other implements [from students], it could save a life,” Williams emphasised.
She said the Ministry has also asked school administrators to refer students from whom these implements are taken, for counselling.
“We know that many of our students are coming from homes that are broken [and] toxic. Many of our students are suffering from trauma from adults in the home. These are adults who should be protecting them, but instead, they are causing them mental harm. So, we are saying to our schools, it’s not enough to simply take away the implements. We must follow up with some counselling as well,” she added.
While acknowledging that the use of metal detectors will help to thwart the extent to which students bring dangerous implements to school with the intention to harm, Williams said “we also know that that is just the beginning”.
“Once the students [exit] through the gates, violent altercations can erupt at any place, anytime. So, we have to depend on our school leaders and administrators… our teachers to be more vigilant [in monitoring them],” she urged.
Williams said security cameras have also been useful in the process, noting that several schools installing these have reported reductions in altercations among students.