After two incidents last week at George Hicks High School that required calls to the police, Minister of Education Alden McLaughlin said Friday that several courses of action will be undertaken to improve security.
‘Safety and security of students and teachers is a major concern,’ Mr. McLaughlin said.
In one of the incidents last week, three men reportedly attempted to rob two 13-year-old students at knifepoint on school grounds.
Two days later, a 17-year-old Caymanian who did not attend the school had to be arrested for trespassing after he had been warned to leave the school grounds.
Mr. McLaughlin said there were some problems at other schools as well. He noted that a classroom and office had been broken into at John Gray High School and some jewellery stolen.
Earlier this year, Mr. McLaughlin expressed concern over students at government schools who were found to be carrying weapons and drug paraphernalia.
Mr. McLaughlin promised he would take action, starting with a security analysis of the government schools.
‘We have to improve the security at the schools swiftly,’ he said.
Security would also be taken into consideration in the design of the new schools planned to be built.
Perhaps most importantly, Mr. McLaughlin a comprehensive policy addressing discipline would be in place starting at the beginning of the next school year.
‘The issue of discipline was a major concern even before I became minister,’ he said.
Mr. McLaughlin said the new policy would address many things, including such issues as uniform size and how uniforms are worn.
‘Have you seen the way some of the children dress?’ he asked. ‘They’ve imported this prison culture [appearance], with baggy pants worn half way down the buttocks. It’s slovenly, besides what it stands for, which I don’t think most of the kids understand. They show no concern for their appearance.
‘We are going to send a very clear message to all the parents of children in government schools,’ he said. ‘The children are going to have to dress properly, with correct fitting clothes. If they don’t, the children won’t be able to attend government schools.’
Mr. McLaughlin said other aspects of students’ appearances would also be addressed, and that ‘exotic hair designs’ would not be allowed.
Discipline at the government schools is essential to their success, Mr. McLaughlin said.
‘We’ve got to get back to where there is respect for authority. If we don’t instil that in our youngsters, we will never, ever succeed.’
With corporal punishment no longer an option, Mr. McLaughlin said teachers would have to be equipped with other means of enforcing discipline.
‘Everyone has to back us up with this policy, otherwise [bad behaviour] is not going to stop,’ he said.
Mr. McLaughlin noted that some parents did not want to see their child disciplined. He recounted a recent incident where a student was suspended after repeated incidences of misbehaviour.
‘The parent’s reaction to that was he was going to a lawyer,’ Mr. McLaughlin said. ‘Everyone is concerned about discipline, but as soon as it’s my child, it’s wrong. They say you can’t do this to my child.’