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Violence in the Jamaican School.

Marie-anick Cowan Communication Ms. Clarke December 2, 2008

School violence is a serious problem in Jamaica today and throughout the world. Violence is carried out against students, teachers, and staff, and may include gang activity, thefts, bullying and intimidation, gun use, fighting on school grounds, assault, criminals entering the school compound, and police apprehending victims on school property, just about anything that produces a victim.

In Jamaica we hear many cases of students assaulting teachers, and teachers retaliating. Rapes are common. Murders over even small things as a cell phone have been evidenced. According to our local CVM television news last month, over two hundred children have been abducted since the start of this year. A recent Gleaner pictorial , in November 2008, showed hundreds of lethal weapons retrieved by the police after searches carried out in schools in Kingston, ice picks, knives, scissors, machetes , the very magnitude being overwhelming. It paints a grim picture.

School violence is not easy to understand. Many Jamaicans blame the police force, the school administrators, the Ministry of Education and even school security guards for incidents that happen.

When we look at violence in school today we must also examine general indiscipline ,the deteriorating values in our society, and the role of the school, teachers, parents, wider community and students themselves in solving this problem.

There is no single reason why students become violent. Some are following behavior they've seen at home, on the streets, or in video games, movies, or television. Sometimes, children who turn violent feel isolated and rejected by their peers. Others emulate gang members within their community or friends with influence, for monetary or other rewards such as being accepted within a particular social group.

Early and improper use of drugs, absentee parents, poverty and rejection, easy access to guns or other weapons are also factors contributing to general indiscipline and violence in schools, and in the wider society.

The Jamaican Observer of September 3, 2008 carried an article of a speech made by our Education Minister Andrew Holness at the beginning of this school year, warning that violence in school would not be tolerated. He stated that the ministry was taking a zerotolerance approach to the possession of weapons and drugs, and the existence of gangs in schools. According to Mr. Holness the ministry was pursuing a memorandum of understanding with the police to have regular searches of school premises and students where there is reasonable cause.

Many schools have implemented programs to fight these problems and to help teachers and administrators know more about protecting students from this type of violence.

Some measures which have been implemented within Jamaican schools to reduce school violence are discipline and punishment such as detention, suspensions and dismissals ; controlled access to school premises , installation of gates and security posts, video cameras, security guards, metal detectors and educational and curriculum-based measures such as guidance counseling, conflict-resolution and gang-prevention programs.

However the prevention of violence in schools needs to be managed not only by schools, but by parents, the wider community and the students themselves. For example, parents need to pay close attention to their children and watch for warning signs, reporting these to guidance counselors or form teachers. Warning signs may include: sudden lack of interest, obsessions with violent games, depression and mood swings, writing that shows despair and isolation, lack of anger management skills, talking about death or bringing weapons to school, sudden and noticeable violence towards animals.

Teachers too should watch for warnings signs and talk to parents about concerns they might have, keeping the lines of communication open. Students should refuse to give in to negative peer pressure, especially when violence is involved, report any knowledge of weapons on campus, report suspicious behaviors of other students. They can also learn to walk away from confrontations Community members can be observant and make reports to parents, teachers or the police.

The government in Jamaica continues to be actively involved in implementing measures to reduce school violence. In March this year the Daily Gleaner reported that three hundred Jamaican teachers and principals were being recruited by the Island Special Constabulary Force (ISCF) to be trained as special constables, as the Government tries to find ways to arrest crime and violence in the nation's public schools. The Ministry has also tried to ensure that the police conduct regular inspections of high schools where security and safety is a major issue .

The Ministries of Health, Education and National Security continue to the actively involved in the fight against violence in schools. Other organizations are also responsive such as the USAID/Jamaica's Solution to Youth Lifestyle and Empowerment, the Peace and Love in Schools advocacy group (PALS) and the School Safety Programme, which continue to mobilize the relevant authorities to implement and enforce standard security policies nationwide.

We must strive to work together to create a safe environment for ourselves and our students. The problem of school violence affects everyone. Just as it is a problem we all must deal with, it is also a problem we all must work to solve We certainly can't stop violent acts from occurring in our schools, but we can be proactive in administering preventative methods The community, the administrators, the teachers, the parents, and the students must come together and make schools safe.