Local students with drugs, weapons threaten lives — Education Minister
Education Minister Sharie de Castro painted a dire picture of the state of affairs at the territory’s secondary schools as she confirmed that there have been threats from students to the lives of their peers, school officials, security officers, and even threats to destroy property.
In a statement read in the House of Assembly (HOA) on Friday, the Minister warned that “there has been an upsurge of extreme misconduct at some of local secondary schools” but clarified that this misconduct applied to public schools under the government’s purview.
According to Minister de Castro, “schools have found students in possession of marijuana and marijuana products as well as e-cigarettes and alcohol. Brass knuckles with knives attached are being confiscated from students far too frequently.”
Coupled with that poor behaviour, there have also been reports of significant issues with students bringing oversized splat balls or pellet guns and using them to shoot at others after school, the Minister said. While noting that the infractions came from a “very small percentage” of the student population, de Castro warned that critical instructional time was lost with the poor behaviour.
In taking steps to address the matter previously, the minister said she met with some 15 students and their parents regarding their repeated misbehaviour during the last school year. She said the school’s intervention plan and expectations were clearly outlined at the time. The minister said while some earnestly tried to improve their behaviour, others did not.
As an added measure, the minister said one unnamed secondary school in particular added work duty, in-school suspension, counselling, engaging internal and external mentors and detention to their litany of strategies intended to remedy disruptive conduct. However, this ‘wrap-around approach’ appeared to be only partially successful.
Minister de Castro said her ministry now stands squarely with schools in “declaring an absolute zero tolerance approach” to the misbehaviour and extreme misconduct. “This means that students who are caught with drugs or drug paraphernalia, edibles, alcohol, knives or toy guns and students who engage in gang fights or threaten teachers or other staff will face the requisite consequences as this type of behaviour cannot be allowed to continue.”
This new approach involves engagement with the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) which will see increased patrols of schools and their surrounding areas, and strategic assistance with investigations in matters of extreme infractions as necessary, the minister said.
According to de Castro, “the Ministry has also engaged the Department of Youth Affairs and Sports and intends to engage with … other organisations to create additional opportunities for intervention and support for students who express a willingness to improve and receive the assistance needed.”