A senior law enforcer has said that when students are suspended or expelled from schools locally, this situation could result in them being easily drafted into criminal organisations.
With local gangsters known to be utilising children as part of their “early warning systems” to spot law enforcement personnel, a call is being made for the Education and Youth Ministry to review the use of suspension and expulsion by school administrators.
“Suspensions and expulsions must be the last resort; it cannot be the first response by a school,” declared Richard Troupe, the Acting Director of Safety and Security in Schools, at the Education Ministry’s anti-gang town hall meeting last week.
It was revealed at the same event by Detective Inspector Clifton Green of the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigations Branch (C-TOC), that the use of suspensions and expulsions posed significant concerns for the police.
He said generally, children have been transporting weapons on behalf of gangs, or acting as lookouts.
“I actually had a conversation with somebody who is indicating that in a particular community, the youngsters are put forward by a particular gang leader for the purpose of early warning systems, and so on,” said Green.
“So it means, therefore, that they (children) are exposed to weaponry, and they’re exposed to all ills that gangs bring to bear on a community,” he added.
According to Green, the situation creates various challenges for law enforcers, and when schools resort to disciplinary action by expelling or suspending students, this further complicates the issue.
“Some of the challenges, too, include truancy, and that is one of the main things, and I am happy that the Ministry of Education is represented as a stakeholder, because coupled with that is sometimes when the students are expelled, or suspended, therein lies the opportunity for him/her to be drafted into this monster, and the unscrupulous ones look on the corner and observe,” the senior policeman stated.
In picking up on that point, Troupe cited the recent revelation by Police Commissioner, Major General Antony Anderson, that children between ages 15 and 17 have been charged with 875 major crimes over the last four years.
In describing the statistics as “uncomfortable truths”, Troupe said: “We need to find out how many of these children would have been suspended or expelled.”
Troupe suggested as well, that the school community and the Education Ministry use data to “inform evidence-based intervention”.
He elaborated that, “Clearly, we have to re-think this position of suspensions and expulsions, because we suspend and expel our children, (but) it cannot be used as a key source of managing behaviour.”
The acting director of safety and security in schools also called on stakeholders to aid students in managing conflicts, this following several incidents of school-based violence recently.
If suspension is used by the school as a disciplinary option, Troupe has proposed that the child should not be sent home unattended.
“The other thing that we need with suspension is we must suspend the child into something.
“The child should not just be made to go home and be left unattended. Perhaps there is a need for us to consider where, if a child is suspended, he is suspended into a programme,” Troupe suggested.
Likewise with expulsion, he said if a child is separated from a school, the ministry and school administrators should ensure that the “child’s education is considered for another institution”.
Further, “we provide support to that child’s family during that transition,” Troupe recommended.