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JIS News

The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is reporting that School Resource Officers (SROs) have intervened in some 74 disputes involving students, since the start of the year.
Statistics released by the Safe Schools Secretariat revealed that between January 1 and April 2006, a total of four guns, 128 other offensive weapons and 64 packets of marijuana were removed from the island’s schools, leading to 32 students being arrested and charged.
In an interview with JIS News, Superintendent Norman Heywood, Co-ordinator of the Police component of the programme explained that, “if the offence is of a minor nature, students are warned, then parents and principals are brought in and a solution sought”. Arrests are made when students become repeat offenders, he noted.
“If it’s a major offence, like wounding with intent and felonious wounding with intent, then the intervention of the courts is required. However, the schools will deal with issues of stealing or the confiscation of marijuana. But if a child is bordering on being a kleptomaniac and [participating in the buying and selling of marijuana] then the intervention of the courts will be the last resort,” he added.
According to Superintendent Heywood, the Safe Schools Programme is currently geared towards high school students, but if Primary and All-age schools are experiencing problems, then the scope would be widened to include them.
He disclosed that the 114 schools involved in the programme are broken down into two main categories, ‘A’ and ‘B’.
Category ‘A’ schools are those that are in volatile or inner-city communities, have reported a high level of violence and are given the full treatment under the safe schools programme, “that is, placing a police officer in the school and the application of all the other intervention methods,” Superintendent Heywood told JIS News. Currently, category ‘A’ consists of 60 schools.
Some 54 schools comprise category ‘B’ and these are schools that do not experience the same level of violence as group ‘A’ and are not considered high risk, but they do experience some violence. “These schools only have some components of the programme,” he said. In addition, group ‘B’ contains schools that have been downgraded from category ‘A’.
In some instances, police officers are stationed at particular schools, but because of the demand placed on them by the state, most are not able to spend an entire day in the school system, the Superintendent said.
“The Safe Schools Programme is not a panacea for all the violence and antisocial behaviour that is now a part of schools. It would be impossible for us to have a police officer placed in all the schools that have a problem,” the Superintendent said.
This programme was introduced in November 2001 and its main function includes fostering safe schools in terms of its physical, psychological and emotional environment and ensuring that these are conducive to positive interactions, which will aid in the teaching/learning experience.
The programme is a collaborative effort among the Ministries of National Security, Education and Youth and Health.
To date, a total of 114 police officers have been trained as SROs, of which 97 have been dispatched to 92 schools and an additional 36 is expected by June 2007.