Trinidad: School Violence Outrage

(TRINIDAD EXPRESS) – Government and education stakeholders have condemned several incidents of violence in schools this month, one of which shows a parent being savagely beaten by pupils, while another shows a parent threatening one schoolchild and pushing another.

These were just two of several reports of vicious school fights which took place at Siparia West Secondary School and San Juan North Secondary School.

Another incident was recorded at Tabaquite Secondary School where at least ten fights involving dozens of pupils took place earlier this month.

National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds and several stakeholders have condemned the actions of both pupils and parents allegedly involved in these fights.

A disturbing video was recorded outside the Siparia West Secondary School on Wednesday, involving pupils in school uniform attacking a parent.

The video was posted on Hinds’ Facebook page on Wednesday.

In the video, the woman, who says she is a parent, is seen armed with what appears to be a long metal instrument, and verbally threatens a male pupil of the school.

She alleged that her son had been bullied by the other pupil.

The mother can be heard accusing the pupil of “hitting my son”. However, the pupil does not appear to be afraid, and is seen responding loudly to the parent.

More than a dozen other pupils then join the boy as they beat the woman and her son.

In addition to being struck by several pupils, one boy is seen jumping and stomping on the woman, who by then had already been pinned to the ground by other pupils.

A man intervenes eventually and drags pupils off the woman in order to stop the attack.

In another video posted on social media, an irate mother is heard using obscene language to threaten a male pupil, and pushes a female pupil outside the San Juan North Secondary School after school was ­dismissed on Monday. In this case, the mother threatened pupils she alleged had been bullying her child, who also attends the school.

The mother can be heard shouting, “Stop hitting my f—ing child. You don’t know who is f—ing me. Like you want to get your head push back? You’re not a bad john.” The pupils respond by shouting back at the woman.

In both instances, the fights occurred near the schools’ compounds, pupils were all in school uniform, and those who were not participating were eagerly cheering on the violence.

The Ministry of Education is yet to publicly address either situation. Attempts to contact Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly for comment proved futile ­yesterday.

Hinds: Bad, criminal behaviour

Responding to the video showing dozens of pupils of Siparia West Secondary School violently attacking the mother and her son, Hinds posted to his Facebook account that behaviours displayed by the pupils could be described as bad or criminal. He called on parents, teachers and others in society to render assistance.

Hinds said, “A student was killed in a country in the region in a similar episode of bad or criminal behaviour. It seems that our bad behaviour will not stop until we get a similar outcome! Imagine students of different schools in competition for which school could generate the most fights!

“Sadly, this is the unfortunate result of our collective poor socialisation of our youth. Bear in mind that their behaviours are also seriously influenced by the events occurring way outside of their homes and their country, via social media,” he wrote.

“Meanwhile, the girls at SAGHS in stiff competition to see which school wins the most scholarships! They demonstrate that in the midst of the madness, bacchanal and confusion that some seem to love and revel in, there are others who are holding up the ideals and meeting the expectations of what we are supposed to be. Most of all, what we have the potential to become.

“The law enforcement platform of National Security will do our part, but parents, teachers and others in the society must all join in to do theirs. Parents are the first responders and the best crime stoppers!” he added.

Speaking during CCN-TV6’s Beyond the Tape programme yesterday, acting Senior Superintendent of the Port of Spain Division Roger Alexander said “these students are challenging these persons. No longer are we sending our children to school. We are sending them to the (World Wrestling Entertainment)… They are beating the lady. Whenever we are called to service, especially under these conditions where there should be some other type of authority dealing with it, we are short-paying persons who want our service. We are short supplying them.”

TTUTA, NPTA angry

Stakeholders also condemned parents who decide to take matters into their own hands.

The Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA), National Parent Teacher Association (NPTA) as well as Concerned Parents Movement of Trinidad and Tobago (CPMTT) all said yesterday they do not support any form of violence.

Instead, these bodies are calling on the Ministry of Edu­cation to take control of the matter, as they believe it is out of control.

Speaking with the Express via phone yesterday, TTUTA president Martin Lum Kin said parents should not ­resort to violence.

“TTUTA is quite concerned when parents are getting involved at this level. The intervention that we believe parents should utilise would be one whereby there would be dialogue as well as positive solutions not to advocate violence upon ­violence. When parents are defending their children, however innocent their child may be, it does not warrant finding a solution through violence.”

“They should be working with the school and the relevant authorities in order to get a solution and to ensure that mediation takes place, counselling takes place, and that there are no further ­occurrences. When parents do this, they send a message that violence begets violence and to us that cannot be the solution,” he said.

Lum Kin said the ministry should be focusing on implementing proactive measures to deal with this issue rather than waiting until fights ­occur to step in. As such, he said TTUTA continues to advocate for programmes such as peer mediation focused on conflict resolution in schools to be implemented.

He also called on the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) to be more involved, and community interventions to take place as well.

Also speaking with the Express yesterday, NPTA president Kevin David said, “We do not support any sort of violence, any parents themselves reacting against any student. There are procedures and protocols that must be followed and ­adhered to. We recommend if there are issues within the school itself, you speak with the principal and form teacher. “If the parent finds that they are not getting the necessary support, they can take it to the PTA. The PTA can look into that as well.”

Making recommendations to deal with the violence, president of the Concerned Parents Movement Clarence Mendoza said, “The Concerned Parents Movement has asked the relevant authorities over and over for years to put a Special Truancy Squad in place specifically to deal with ­juveniles.

“The Ministry of National Security partnering with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Youth Development can make this a reality. We have put in place the Juvenile Justice System, but it is underused. “Parents who take matters into their own hands can be brought before the court for violating the rights of the child,” he said.

“Parents should seek the attention of the TTPS if there are any questions about the abuse of their child by ­another or an adult.”