Government taking steps to reduce violence in schools Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

The government is moving to strengthen measures to reduce incidents of violence in schools.

These measures follow a recent series of violent incidents in schools across the island.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness says it is important that every step is taken to reduce instances of violence so that children can learn in a safe environment.    

He then informed that the Ministry of Education and Youth, as well as the Ministry of National Security, are to undertake a reassessment of the security risk of schools.

“That way, we can get a better understanding of which schools are at risk and how to direct resources to those schools.

“We have already started to increase the number of case managers that would be available for community interventions and school interventions through the Ministry of National Security, and we are going to increase the number of school resource officers,” he said.

He noted that the school resource officer programme has been effective but “…depending on the intensity of implementation, sometimes schools get resource officers and sometimes they do not”.

“What we are going to seek to do now, after the conduct of this new assessment of the schools, is to increase the numbers and then redirect some of these officers to those schools with the highest risk,” he said.

In addition, all schools have been directed to review their entry and search policies and must now seek to put in place measures to detect and seize weapons in schools, particularly knives and other implements that can be used to cause damage.

Holness also mentioned that the Government is looking to implement social intervention initiatives to help counter issues such as bullying and the recruitment of children to gangs.

In her comment Minister of Education and Youth, Fayval Williams, says the ministry has employed a multipronged approach to prevent violence, starting with the Safety and Security Policy.

“It spells out how to implement physical security measures such as searches of students’ school bags; organising training programmes for school personnel to recognise warning signs and intervene effectively; counselling at-risk individuals; developing crisis and emergency plans; assigning roles for students, parents, and the community; and addressing and resolving conflicts constructively,” she said.

She further mentions the School-Wide Positive Behaviour Interventions and Support (SWPBIS), which is a Caribbean-wide programme that is in 509 primary and secondary schools in Jamaica.

“It is a framework designed to enhance students’ understanding of behaviour expectations at school. It builds and/or changes the social culture within the schools in which it is practiced.

“This is a universal, school-wide prevention strategy aimed at reducing behaviour problems that lead to discipline referrals and suspensions and change perceptions of school safety,” Williams pointed out.

Another initiative is the Restorative Practice Training Programme. In February, the Ministry signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the continued delivery of Restorative Practice training in schools across Jamaica.

Through this agreement, 500 schools will be targeted and some 12,500 participants, including school administrators, educators, students, parents, and guardians will be trained.

Under the MOU of May 2022, training took place in 258 schools, impacting more than 7,900 students, 1,109 educators and 1,034 family members.