Social Media’s Role and the Vexing Issue Of Violence in Schools
To borrow Malcom Gladwell‘s definition of tipping point, it is “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point“. BU’s definition, it is that moment when a momentum is created that drives change that is irreversible.
The BU household is of the view that the spotlight which social media continues to shine on the violence in our schools- although symptomatic of the problem- is pushing the the society to the boiling point of awareness where each one of us will accept we have to rollup our sleeves and take ownership of the problem.
To those who constantly harp that violence in schools is nothing new, you are correct. In April 2006, over a decade ago, the Nation newspaper published an article Danger Zone that quoted a study by Director of Youth Affairs Richard, “one in every five students has carried a weapon to school, the majority of which have the potential for serious or fatal injury”. Carter concluded, “How have we reached a stage where 41 per cent of our public secondary school students have seen a gun up close in their community; where 28 per cent have held a gun; where 25 per cent have carried a weapon when going out and 60 per cent feel that it is necessary to carry a weapon in today’s society?”
In 2008 Joy Gittens presented at the Caribbean Union of Teachers’ (CUT) Educational Conference under the topic – Violence & Indiscipline in Schools: Challenges The Experience of Barbadian Secondary Schools citing the Carter study. Her 10 recommendations back then were:
- A deliberate programme to determine and reduce the level of felt alienation among students. (14% dislike school)
- Increasing the level of active participation in life of school through membership of groups and organisations. (45% are not members of group/org.)
- Developing/Preserving the physical integrity of the school compound either through use of security guards and/or fencing. (27% cited lack of fencing/security as reason why school is unsafe)
- Enforcing a consistent policy in relation to deviant and anti-social behaviour in the school. (29.5%
cited inconsistency as reason why problems not dealt with well)
- Determining students who have experienced violence in personal lives and develop programme to respond to their circumstances. (14% have experienced a violent incident in all three contexts: home, community and school)
- Creating/building a caring and supportive environment within the school (or convince students if it already exists). (38% feel teachers care little or not at all about students’ problems)
- A greater and more consistent level of supervision of students. (More than 80% have seen weapons, more than 50% have seen drugs, 60% report at least weekly fights)
- Providing students with the skills to negotiate and resolve conflict. (Of those who had been involved in
a fight at school more than 60% indicated that they could have “negotiated” the conflict)
- Active implementation of “power-to-search” provision of the Education Act. (21.3% have carried a weapon to school, 30% said its easy to get drugs at school)
- Earlier intervention strategies in relation to substance abuse prevention based on a greater degree of imagination, sophistication and creativity. (Average age of first usage 10 years of age, complex socio-cultural drivers of experimentation and abuse)
To give context to the problem of violence in schools our regional neighbour Trinidad and Tobago as far back as 1998 the education authorities convened a National Consultation on Violence and Indiscipline in Schools to discuss the most thorny issues in the school system grouped under drugs, arms and ammunition, extreme violence and assault on members of staff. Several recommendation were made, BU ask you to judge almost 20 years later if T&T has been able in wrestling the problem to the ground and are we able to learn from their experience.
Further research was conducted by Martin Hall in his dissertation Violence in Schools: A Comparison between Older Secondary Schools, Newer Secondary Schools and Wards (Government Industrial Schools) in Barbados. The following excerpt attracted the attention of the BU household:
The predicted outcome of the study is that all three areas of measure would reveal some level of violence but that on a scale GIS would be higher than the older and newer secondary schools and that the newer secondary schools would show a higher level of violence than the older secondary schools. This might be so because of the categories that these three levels are placed in society. With the older secondary schools being labelled as prestigious, the newer secondary being labelled as not as academic and GIS labelled as the deviant group.
The objective of the submission to this point is to confirm that there is an abundance of informed study to deflate the emotionalism attached to the issue of violence in the school system. We know the root causes and a mountain of recommendations exist to intelligently attack the problem.
What has puzzled the BU household is the unwillingness of the authorities to leverage what Mac Fingall was able to achieve at the Lodge School when he almost singlehandedly restored the reputation of the school. Here is an interview with Fingall the BU household watches from time to time when others throw their hands in the air and lament the failing of the school system and little hope.
We are confident that social media will be the oomph that forces the country to deal frontally with the matter of violence in schools.
We live in hope.
We need our leaders to stand up!