13 June 2011
For immediate release
The Progressive Liberal Party calls for the immediate re-establishment of School Based Policing in light of escalating school violence.
Over the past two days alone, at least two major fights occurred involving at least seventeen (17) high school students and at least five (5) students had to be taken to the Princess Margaret Hospital suffering from serious stab wounds. It is our understanding that more fights and altercations occurred over the last two weeks at a number of schools. However, the FNM Government is sweeping these incidents ‘under the carpet’ because they are too embarrassed to face the reality that the PLP’s School Based Policing served a meaningful purpose. Further, these matters no longer capture media attention to bring the gravity of the situation to the general public. The negligent act of the FNM government not to take immediate and appropriate action places the entire school environment including those involved in these incidents at grave risk.
In 2003, the PLP Christie administration realized that The Bahamas, like its Caribbean counterparts, was experiencing serious problems in its school system and was headed for an explosion in school violence. In response, the PLP initiated research to identify the extent of the problem and possible challenges. This was a collaborative effort between all the respective agencies including the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of National Security (more particularly, the Royal Bahamas Police Force). An impressive eighty-three (83) page working document was produced to address the challenges associated with safety in our schools.
It was and still is the position of the PLP that making our schools safer requires a comprehensive strategy that includes the following elements:
- Opportunities to acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to maintain a school environment in which conflict and differences can be addressed in a manner characterized by respect and civility;
- Intervention and support for those who are at risk of, or already engaged in, violent or antisocial behavior contrary to Ministry of Education standards and in violation of the laws of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas;
- A pro-active approach in identifying and preventing (where possible) random or planned acts of violence in schools; and
- An effective response to incidents when they occur – one that respects the rights of victims and witnesses, as well as those of the alleged perpetrators in accordance with the laws of The Bahamas.
Due to the nature and extent of the problem, the Christie administration formed the School Based Policing Unit that was headed by the Police and strategically placed them in our school environment. School violence dropped as the Police, in collaboration with school Principals, administrative bodies, the Ministry’s security teams and the wider Public Service prevented, intercepted and detected more incidents that breached school safety. All forms of weapons were confiscated before students could use such weapons to commit acts of violence.
Unfortunately in 2007, when the FNM came to office, they stopped and cancelled the School Based Policing Programme. From 2007 to the present, at least three (3) students were murdered and countless others have sustained life-threatening injuries. Additionally, students have attacked school administrators.
In light of the escalating violence in schools, the PLP admonishes the FNM that it is generally accepted that schools must be safe places for learning and teaching. A safe school environment promotes respect, responsibility, and civility. Providing the best possible education for students in a safe school community is a shared responsibility, and it requires a commitment to collaboration, cooperation, and effective communication, not only among parents and teachers, or the Ministry of Education, but among all entities charged with the education and protection of the citizens of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. The Government itself must take charge and lead accordingly; return the School Based Policing Programme so that teachers feel safe enough to teach and students feel safe enough to learn.
We also remind the Government that there are approximately sixty-five thousand (65,000) persons in our educational system. Given this large figure, the issues of crime, anti-social behavior and violence that affect the educational system, combined with truancy and abuse must be given top priority by the Government. Implementation of the School Based Policing Initiative can be the catalyst that restores the element of safety to schools and permit students to focus on attaining their educational goals unimpeded by fear.