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Minister of Education and Youth, Maxine Henry Wilson has said that the Ministry has significantly strengthened and expanded the Safe Schools Programme, to include more schools.
“I am pleased to inform you that at least 40 additional School Resource Officers have been trained and will be deployed in the system,” she said.
Speaking at the annual conference of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), held recently in Ocho Rios, Mrs. Henry Wilson said that the schools would continue to work at reducing violent incidents, and that all schools would be engaged in exploring, re-casting and re-shaping attitudes and clarifying values in an effort to prevent, rather than just curtail violence.
The start of the new school year, she said, should see several initiatives being implemented so as to empower principals and teachers to carry out their duties as the main disciplinarians in schools.
“The Police, in collaboration with the schools administration, will conduct targeted searches in schools for offensive weapons; serious criminal offences committed by students and outsiders are to be dealt with by the police and the full weight of the law given. We will develop a public education programme and conduct awareness training on discipline-related regulations in the 1980 Education Act,” she said.
In addition, Mrs. Henry Wilson said the Ministry would standardize rules and consequences for breaches and ensure that they were being taught and upheld by teachers, parents and students.
“It is our intention to institute a Safe Zone around schools but this will require legislative authority,” she said, explaining that the Safe Zone was a protective area around the school in which any breach of the law would attract stiffer penalties.
“We believe that this can be a deterrent for criminal elements. Principals will have greater jurisdiction of students outside of the school compound, but within the Safe Zone,” the Minister said.
Mrs. Henry Wilson called on principals to assist in the programme by including a safety component in their school development plan.
The Safe Schools Programme seeks to address undesirable and anti social behaviour and violence in schools.
The JTA’s conference was held under the theme: ‘Promoting Responsible Citizenship Through Education’.