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President of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association Davenand Sinanan said teachers and principals have a responsibility to report all violence taking place at their schools. Sinanan said just like doctors/teachers are duty bound by law, to report teenage sex/pregnancy, they must also place this same kind of emphasis on school violence. His statement comes amidst confusion as to whether or not a stabbing incident took place at the Cedros Secondary school, causing a rebellion among the student population.
Reports reaching the Guardian indicated that a form five student accused of bullying a form one student was stabbed on his hand with a sharp object by his victim. The source said bullying is a norm at that school. The incident sparked a series of fights and thrashing of classrooms, as well as chants for the principal to go.
School principal Windy Mathura admitted that a fight took place on Tuesday, but denied the stabbing report. However, another source said, on Wednesday the injured student was accompanied by a school official to the Cedros Health Centre for treatment. Police said they had no report on the matter. However, Sinanan said on Thursday members of the South Western Division police made an intervention at the school to quell the continuing disturbance. Reports are that sanitary pads were stuck to the principal’s car earlier that day.
Public information officer of the T&T Police Service, Joanne Archie, has placed the burden of responsibility on parents of the students to report such incidents. “What we may find happening is the victim or his or her parents may not report the incident and they might want to handle the matter. In some cases, the parents say they do not want the police involved.
“We back off in those cases, but once the parents report it the police will investigate. If we hear about an incident, we will go to the school and if the school wants to handle it internally, we will back off.” Sinanan took an affront to this, saying all violence in which serious injuries are inflicted on students should be reported. As in the case of sexual offences, he said, school administrators are mandated to contact the police.
He said problems at the school stemmed from poor relations between the administration and staff, which the students had sensed. He said TTUTA is awaiting a date from Mathura, as to when they can facilitate a conflict resolution session between the administrators and staff. He said violence is plaguing all schools and one of the barriers to solving this problem was the lack of guidance counsellors. In 2010, the contracts of many guidance counsellors were not renewed causing a severe shortage in the education system.
In the absence of guidance counsellors, community police officers are the next best bet in helping to curb school violence.
Ask us for help—Joanne Archie
Archie said most people think that when police are called in that there will be a rough approach to dealing with the situation. She said a proactive strategy is needed to deal with school violence and called on principals to seek help from the community police.
“We have a problem with school violence and currently we have a team of officers in our anti-bullying campaign, where we have targeted 24 schools in Port-of-Spain so far. We have already covered 12 schools in the district and after we are done we will move on the rest of the country. “In the meantime, the community police unit can assist schools with these problems. It does not mean that when the police comes into the picture that things are going to get rough,” she said.