Let's do more to curb student violence
March 20, 2004
WHEN in August of last year we dealt with the topic of youth crime, we were elated that the Guyana Police Force and the National Community Policing Executive had agreed to implement an innovative plan to curb student violence.
We thought then that such an initiative by the law enforcement partners was long overdue and hoped it would impact positively on the country's student population when classes resumed last September.
All of us crave an environment in the education sector that is conducive to teaching and learning. And so we expressed moral support for efforts by the police, umbrella community group and educators to transform the behaviour of our students.
When a 16-year-old Lodge Community High School student physically assaulted a 21-year-old teacher in school on Wednesday, March 10, Guyanese greeted the news with a mixture of disbelief and expectation - disbelief because it's the last thing they expected to happen, and expectation because it was obvious that improperly grounded students are more vulnerable than their more fortunate peers to the influence of television, lewd music/music videos, the Internet, undisciplined adult behaviour - and the pressure of fellow students demonstrating their yearning to be the center of attention.
A chilling example was that of a student in New York brutally attacking a teacher on September 13, 2000. According to New York State United Teachers, a pregnant teacher preparing the day's test at Roosevelt High in Yonkers was struck seven to eight times in the head with a hammer by a 15-year-old student!
In another case, a veteran teacher who tried to break up a fight by rival sisters ended up, to take a discredited metaphor, in the wrong place at the wrong time. During the scuffle, one of the sisters wrenched the teacher's arm so severely that today, more than nine years later, that teacher still lives in constant pain, has limited arm function and attends physical therapy three times a week. Worse, the injury prematurely ended her 23-year career as an art teacher.
No teacher in Guyana has been the victim of such vicious attacks, although, in the assault case at Lodge Community High School, teacher Brian Balgobin suffered a fractured skull - all because he dared to scold the student for misbehaving in class.
We understand that the police are patrolling the school to monitor the behaviour of the students, not only in the aftermath of the student's assault on teacher Balgobin, but also as a result of reports that knives, ice picks and other criminal weapons have been found on students at that school.
We hope that the police, the Community Policing Executive and the Ministry of Education are collaborating on the drafting of measures that will effectively address violent physical attacks on school personnel and on students by fellow students, and encourage students to observe the rules and regulations governing classroom behaviour.
Hopefully, their initiatives will be enough to deter tempered, abusive students from walking with and using sharp, violence-prone weapons to resolve misunderstandings with a teacher or with a peer. If that doesn't work, our educators and legislators may have to turn to countries such as Canada, Great Britain and the United States for new ideas on how to de-escalate student conflict and class violence.