JIS News

Co-ordinator of the Safe Schools Programme, Monica Dystant, has reported that the placement of School Resource Officers (SROs) in troubled schools across the island, has achieved two of its primary objectives – acceptance on the part of the schools’ staff and positive interaction with students.
In a recent interview with JIS News, Miss Dystant said that, “the level of success that the placement of SROs has received is very high, because these SROs have been commended for not just being there but interacting at a high level with the students and the school practitioners to bring about a reduction in aggression and the levels of violence, not only on the school compound but in the surrounding environments and communities”.
The SROs are policemen or women attached to the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), who are assigned to curtail outbreaks of violence in troubled schools, and also act as mediators in instances where conflict arises between students. The Safe Schools Programme was officially launched in November 2004 as a joint effort of the Ministries of National Security, and Education, Youth and Culture.
It was implemented at the start of the 2004/2005 academic year and law enforcement officers were placed at 89 troubled institutions in the parishes ofSt. James, St. Ann, St. Elizabeth, Kingston and St. Andrew.
An incidence report from a survey done by the JCF in September to December 2004, reveal that some 362 weapons were seized in schools where SROs are on duty; 3 firearms were also seized; and 22 packs of marijuana were confiscated.
Discussing other initiatives being pursued to curtail violence in schools under the Safe Schools Programme, Miss Dystant revealed that some 300 peer leaders and parents across the six regions of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture, were recently trained in a number of workshops that began in November last year.
“The peer leaders and the parents were exposed to areas such as mediation techniques, conflict resolution, the awareness of self, because we believe that if we know what we are about, if we are able to identify who we are, then we are better able to interact with our fellow human beings,” the Co-ordinator pointed out.
She further informed that for the upcoming academic year, the programme is targeting principals and guidance counsellors, with a view to training them in principles of how to deal with eruptions of violence in schools.
“The plan is to select principals of particular schools and I would think that we are going to begin with the schools that we have categorised as ‘A’ schools (institutions with high levels of reported violence) that also have similar levels of violence in the communities that surround them, so we would hope to target the principals of the category ‘A’ schools and the other stakeholders or practitioners in these schools, such as the guidance counsellors and the teachers,” Miss Dystant noted.
“Then we move down to the schools we categorise as ‘B’ Schools, depending on the level of resources we have and the need to train these participants,” she added.
Miss Dystant informed that a pilot study was currently being carried out for the Safe Schools Programme, aimed at finding out the causes of violence in these schools.
The results of the study, which are expected shortly, “will try to identify the causes of violence in these schools, and the extent to which the schools are managing the violence,” she explained.
Miss Dystant said the information gleaned from the study is intended to be used, “to inform policies, to revisit and revise some of the policies at the levels of the Ministries of Education, Youth and Culture and National Security”.