A preliminary audit conducted by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information is showing a reduction in the number of critical incidents in schools involving the use of weapons.
The audit, undertaken at the end of the 2014/15 academic year, also indicates an increase in the number of weapons confiscated by Deans of Discipline in partnership with School Resource Officers (SROs).
Director of Safety and Security in Schools, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Coleridge Minto, attributes the developments to the use of metal detectors in schools.
Approximately 135 metal detectors were issued to over 130 secondary institutions in 2015, leading to the confiscation of firearms and ammunition, among other things.
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ASP Minto says that scissors continue to be the most prevalent item recovered, and underscores the need for school administrators to secure these devices after they are used in classes.
He informs that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has been providing support in confiscating weapons taken from students, particularly firearms and ammunition, and carrying out investigations.
He tells JIS News that parents and school administrators have welcomed the use of the metal detectors as they serve as a deterrent to students carrying weapons to school, thereby improving safety and security.
“It creates awareness in the minds of the students that they may be subject to searches,” he says.
“One principal told me that since the use of the metal detectors commenced, the frequency with which weapons have been coming into the school is almost at zero. It speaks to the tremendous success of the initiative,” he informs.
He points out that where the devices malfunction, the schools immediately contact the Ministry to have these either repaired or replaced because they understand their value and use.
ASP Minto tells JIS News that parents have been supportive of the use of the devices.
“We have been speaking at Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) meetings and encouraging parents to become more involved in helping the schools by searching the bag of their child to ensure that the youngster is not leaving home with any weapons,” he notes.
ASP Minto tells JIS News that while the use of the metal detectors has created a more controlled environment resulting in fewer incidents at schools, there has been a notable increase in off campus conflicts.
He says these incidents often result from disagreements at school spilling over into the streets, as well as differences arising at the community level.
He informs that the Ministry has been liaising with the schools and parents “to see how best we can address those issues.”
ASP Minto is optimistic of even further reductions in school violence at the end of the current academic year.