By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
BAHAMAS Union of Teachers President Belinda Wilson said the safety of teachers at public schools in the country continues to be a concern, insisting teachers everyday witness violence on campuses and at times have suffered physical harm.
Mrs Wilson raised alarm after telling The Tribune yesterday that LW Young Junior High School’s principal was involved in an argument with two students and was slapped by one of them during the ordeal.
Hours later, she said, a student was hit in the head with a rock, adding that the attacker allegedly had a knife.
The injured student was taken to hospital by ambulance and the matter was reported to the police, she said.
However, Education Director Marcellus Taylor had a different version of both events, when he was contacted yesterday.
Mr Taylor said L W Young’s principal was attempting to calm an angry student when the student in a fit of rage formed a fist and swung at the principal, “grazing” the administrator’s forehead in the process.
“The first incident resulted with a student who, for whatever reason, lost her anger and we think that the student has some kind of internal challenge,” he said in a telephone interview with The Tribune. “She reacted inappropriately and because she reacted inappropriately the principal was moving her away from the crowd and taking her to the office to try and calm her down. She was still in this kind of violent fit and in the process she pulled away from the principal and she closed her fist and swung at the principal, sort of grazing the principal on her forehead with her fist.”
Mr Taylor said the student’s parents were called, along with police and the matter is under control.
The student will face an appropriate punishment once officials view the report of the incident and come to a determination as to what is best.
As for the second incident, Mr Taylor said a male student of L W Young received a head injury when another student from a different school threw a rock at him.
He said the aggressor has a history of behavioural issues and is challenged with socialising with other students.
The injured student was taken to hospital and “should be fine”, Mr Taylor said.
Regardless of what transpired, Mrs Wilson is of the view that a comprehensive policing plan is overdue. She pointed to another incident at Eight Mile Rock High, in Grand Bahama, where a teacher who attempted to part a fight between students sustained injury to one of her eyes and has been referred to an eye specialist.
Additionally she said weeks ago there were several incidents of violence involving students in close proximity to C C Sweeting Senior High School.
“There is definitely a need for focused attention for our students especially the at-risk ones. The support, mentoring and programs must be sustainable not just for show,” she said yesterday.
“It must have various components that support students’ education, work opportunities and social services. There has to be a major push to influence parents to take a more proactive role in the nurturing of their children.”
The BUT president said the union continues to wait for the school policing plan.
“There is always the concern of safety on school campuses and that is why the Bahamas Union of Teachers agreed to the police in school which would help to quell crime and violence on and around school campuses. We have yet to receive the comprehensive school policing plan.
“Sadly, teachers are witnessing incidents of violence on a daily basis not only involving L W Young students but it is all over.”
In late March, National Security Minister Wayne Munroe said police officers were returned to public schools, nearly a week after concerns were reignited about school safety following a stabbing at AF Adderley Junior High.
At the time several officers were assigned to nine different public schools in New Providence in view of the incident.
Among them were AF Adderley Junior High, CH Reeves Junior High, Government High School, RM Bailey Senior High, CC Sweeting Senior High, CV Bethel Senior High School and Doris Johnson Senior High.
It came after a student was stabbed at AF Adderley in what officials believe may have been a gang related attack.
A 13-year-old boy was charged in connection with the incident.
Mr Taylor noted the placement of police officers in schools and said there was consideration of bringing in additional officers to other schools.
“There is additional work being done to train these officers into what they call school resource officers who operate slightly differently than lets say ordinary police might operate.
“It’s not a matter of them going into the schools to get criminals. It’s a matter of being in schools to ensure everything is orderly and to help schools that may have these additional challenges to kind of comply and conform so the training is different and that will be dealt with during the course of the summer months.
“Plans are being made for that and the extent for which we have success for that programme will determine how much more it spreads across New Providence and even in Grand Bahama.”
However, Mr Taylor said he did not think the situation required the same approach at this time for Family Island schools.