St. John’s Antigua- Wednesday November 16, 2011 -Education Minister Dr. Jacqui Quinn-Leandro has sent a stern warning to students that a zero tolerance policy to anti-social behaviour in schools has been adopted.
Speaking in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, following the expulsion this week of eight students from the Ottos Comprehensive School, implicated in two incidents, Quinn-Leandro in defending the expulsions said the zero tolerance approach by her ministry is aimed at students who display deviant conduct at any of the public secondary institutions.
“It was commonly felt that in addition to the barbaric act displayed at the Ottos Comprehensive School of these young men who have all passed the age of 16, is likely to have an adverse effect upon good order and proper discipline at school.”
The education minister pointed out that all penalties are and will be in accordance with the Education Act of 2008, and will be “slavishly applied.”
Dr. Quinn-Leandro also defended the decision taken by education officials to dispatch law enforcement officers to Ottos Comprehensive School to conduct searches following the bloody cutlass brawl on 4 November, 2011. That stance has been criticized by some members of the public, but the minister was resolute and offered no apologies in stating that the behaviour displayed by the group of male students warranted the intervention of the police, rather than teachers and the principal.
“I would like those who criticize, who feel that the principal and teachers must deal with it, to put themselves in the shoes of the staff at OCS. When without due regard for the teachers, principal and students, those young men were behaving like raging bulls, who could not be controlled and persuaded to let reason and rationality prevail.
“If there are thugs in our schools, who best to deal with cutlass toting, knife wielding, criminally minded young men than the police?” the minister asked.
Declaring that students will be held accountable for their actions, Dr. Jacqui Quinn-Leandro served notice that students who are caught with deadly weapons at school will be deemed a threat to their peers and teachers, and once they (weapons) are put in use, then those pupils will be expelled. Additionally, those who behave violently and get into fights and cause brawls will also be expelled.
The minister of education made it clear that “being in school over the age of 16 is not a right. So if students are bent on being thugs, always fighting, giving trouble, smoking weed, not interested in school, sports, being disrespectful and lawless, you have no place in the school system, and we’re not going to tolerate students being held hostage by other students with downright bad behaviour.”
Dr. Jacqui Quinn-Leandro revealed that among her ministry’s policies in light of the zero tolerance approach are that all parents with school aged children should become active members of the Parent Teachers Association (PTA), the Ministries of Education and National Security will collaborate to have unannounced checks by law enforcement officers at any school public or private, at any time, on request by the Ministry of Education, the principal and/or management of the school, and the Ministries of Education and Social Transformation will collaborate to have expelled students counseled by trained counselors in conflict resolution and job searches.
A total of eight students have been recently expelled from Ottos Comprehensive School. Six boys were implicated in the cutlass brawl on 4 November, where one student was cornered in the reception area of the secondary school and dealt several chops about his body and two male students for assaulting police officers, when they (students) refused to be searched by the police on the school’s compound.