The President of the National Principals Association (NPA) has disclosed that staff at some schools are apprehensive in the face of evidence of increased student gang activity at learning institutions.
“There is that fear. There are certain schools where the principals and the teachers are in fear because of the magnitude of those cases in schools regarding gangs. We are concerned and need to address it,” Valerie St. Helene-Henry told St. Lucia Times.
She indicated that she was aware that students use graffiti to promote a specific gang, mark its territory, or send a message to others.
“There was a particular incident where they tried to come into a school,” St. Helene-Henry recalled regarding a recent development.
She said a fight occurred, and the school summoned the police.
The NPA President said the matter is under investigation.
St. Helene-Henry felt student gang activity was increasing, pointing to reports that females are now involved.
She recalled seeing a social media video where a female student brandished a firearm, which may not necessarily indicate that the young woman was a gang member.
“I think it is escalating,” the NPA official said regarding the student gang situation.
“Most of those gangs, I think adults lead them not school students. So there’s a recruiting process to bring in students for whatever reason,” St. Helene-Henry told St. Lucia Times.
She noted the need for a holistic approach to addressing the problem and called on parents to play their role alongside principals, teachers, the police, and others.
“The parents need to play a major part,” St. Helene-Henry declared.
“The children are on the loose out there after school. Parents are not finding out where their children are. They don’t give them a specific time to be at home – these are some of the things,” she stated.
According to the NPA President, the school cannot insist on a set of rules that are not enforced at home where there is no difference between an adult and a child.
St. Helene-Henry spoke Friday, one day after a meeting to discuss a comprehensive review of school safety and security done by by former Police Commissioner Ausbert Regis.
She said the review in the pilot project involved eight secondary schools in various parts of the Island, some of which had experienced break-ins and other safety and security issues.
“We met to review the recommendations and classify those that were short, medium and long-term,” the NPA head disclosed.
The recommendations included fencing, increased CCTV use, and appointing security officers instead of school ‘watchmen’.
The NPA President said Thursday’s discussion also focussed on student gangs.
St. Helene-Henry explained that some parents hesitate to send their children to some schools where they believe student gangs operate.
Headline photo: Suspected gang graffiti at a secondary school in Castries.