By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
EDUCATION Minister Jerome Fitzgerald pushed back yesterday against this newspaper’s report that he mischaracterised conclusions researchers at The College of The Bahamas made about the effect police presence in public schools has on school violence.
On Monday in the House of Assembly, Mr Fitzgerald referred to a study by COB professors Dr Nicolette Bethel and William Fielding, claiming that its conclusion was that the presence of police officers in schools has made campuses safer.
“This study... claims ‘that school policing in The Bahamas has been a success,” he said.
As reported previously, The Tribune obtained a copy of the report and found that the study does not make this claim. Instead, it says such a conclusion cannot be made given the available information on the matter.
However, Mr Fitzgerald did not directly address attributing this claim to the researchers when he discussed the matter in Parliament yesterday.
He instead said education officials have information showing that there has been a decline in school violence since officers were put back into schools.
“Based on reports received by the Ministry of Education since we reintroduced school policing, the fact is that school based violence has been reduced significantly,” he told the House of Assembly on Thursday. “I made the statement without fear of contradiction.”
However, neither the information he referred to nor any formal study proving his point has been made public.
He added: “Mr Speaker, it is not uncommon for persons to summarise based on information presented in the research and one’s knowledge based on the decreased incidence of violence on our campuses. I was comfortable in saying that school policing in The Bahamas has been a success. The research conducted by Pyfrom claims, and I quote, that ‘school policing in The Bahamas has been a success.’ And I support that research and that same research was quoted in the study that I referred to on page four of that study.”
However, The Tribune found that “Pyfrom” conducted no research.
“Pyfrom,” as referred to in the research paper, refers to a Bahama Journal reporter who, in 2013, wrote a story quoting National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage as having declared school policing to be a success.
Although he did not address these discrepancies, Mr Fitzgerald emphasised that his main point is that students feel safer at school than off school grounds.
“I am not wrong for saying that fewer incidents happen outside the school than inside the school as it relates to violent altercations,” he said.
The issue of school safety resurfaced last week when 16-year-old Adonai Wilson was fatally stabbed during an altercation with other Doris Johnson Senior High School students.
The attack occurred less than a mile from the school, shortly after the school was dismissed early for exams. Wilson died a short time later in hospital. Three teenagers have been charged with his murder.
The Christie administration reintroduced school policing shortly after the Progressive Liberal Party won the 2012 general election. The programme had been dismantled by the Ingraham administration.