COMMENTARY: Societal And School Violence

The content originally appeared on: Antigua News Room



History continues to show human behavior as being violent, as it is vicious. That which was widely known, was that in some societies, members that were well-known to have caused violence to be visited upon others, had done so without fear of foreseeable consequences.’ Such has been the nature of man. In most societies, that which was known of violence, was that in human socialization, it invariably flows from the streets of society into homes and learning institutions. It shall not be said that violence perpetrated on students within the learning institutions by others, has been the result of the laxity, or inability or unmanageability’ of ‘Principals and Teaching staff.’


While not necessarily of their own making, ‘Principals’ are constantly faced with challenges of one kind or another. Among the staff, there is ‘Absenteeism.’ While among students, there is violence and mischief-making. While a ‘Twig’ might easily be bent into shape, it is virtually impossible to do the same to a grown ‘Mahogany Tree.’ When fell by some implement or machines, it requires a saw-mill to cut into desired lengths. Then by a joiner, shaped and made into furniture.


Those assigned to shape young minds, and in the process, inculcate a sense of purpose, dignity and pride in students, are not joiners. They are professional educators. That which they do best, is to instruct students, that educationally, they may become knowledgably wealthy to be able, with some measure of success, able to navigate life’s varying zones of torridity and difficulty.


When ‘Gunshots’ was reportedly heard outside the ‘YMCA Sports Complex,’ they may have caused the citizenry to believe that students at the ‘Ottos Comprehensive School (OCS)’ had become ‘Trigger-Happy.’ In fact, research revealed no ‘Student Gun Battle’ at the sports complex. Besides, the incident that reportedly occurred outside the perimeter fence, only disquieted and disturbed students lawfully assembled. Criminal investigators appeared not to have properly positioned themselves to be familiar with other Legal provisions [Small Charges Act].


Until the next generation was born, present generations could now look into the pages of history to see the societally violent-prone adults and youth that have been accused of committing weaponized and ‘Vicious Acts of Barbarism’ against their fellow-men. This commentary primarily looks at ‘Violence,’ as it affected, and continues to affect some of the nation’s schools and students and members of the wider society.


It specifically looks at previous attempts by then ‘Education Minister, Dr. Jacqui Quinn-Leandro,’ in assisting Principals and educators in instilling, reinforcing and maintaining disciplinary control within the learning institutions. It also looks at; (a) ‘The barbaric and gruesome ‘Death’ of a 10-year-old female of the ‘T.N. Kirnon Primary School (TNKPS); and (b) A reflective look of the ‘Expulsion’ of 6-students from the ‘Ottos Comprehensive School’ for allegedly conducted reign of terror within the class room at the ‘Ottos Comprehensive School.’


Not only the savage act exacted upon her continues to offend human civilization, but also continues to haunt the memory of the bereaved family, and those who knew female student ‘Jemuel Samuel 10’ [June 29, 2006]. Even after eighteen (18) years, the heinous crime still agonizes the family, as it torments the living spirit. Those feeling the effects of the heinous criminal act, have been no more distraught, as has been the teaching fraternity and the nation.


Former ‘Education Minister, Dr. Jacqui Quinn-Leandro [2004-2014],’ knew that in civil society, as in learning institutions, modern civilization demanded that there shall be amicable ways in resolving conflicts. In her parliamentary tenure and ‘Ministerial Capacity,’ she would have been aware of violence within the wider ‘Society,’ as there has been within the ‘Schools’ environment. Given her responsibility for ‘Education and Youth Affairs,’ student violence, was concerning to her, as were to the principals and educators and parents and guardians.


Today, it appears that senior public officials may be so taxed with ‘Affairs’ that were neither ‘Educational’ nor of interest to the ‘Youth.’ As ‘Education Minister,’ there was to be clear understanding of two fundamentals; (i) ‘Children at home were to be under parental control; and (ii) Within the school’s environment, they were to be students, obedient and well-mannered and well-behaved.’ In addressing ‘School Violence,’ the ‘Minister’s’ zero tolerance stance appeared not to have been fully pursued. The ‘stance, may have been short-lived. This may have fell through after an unsuccessful bid to continue in public administration [March 13, 2014].


It was to societal knowledge that ‘Violence’ which ‘Flowed’ from the nation’s streets, had often ‘Flowed’ into ‘broken homes.’ Conversely, that which flowed from homes, often flowed into institutions for learning. Even those with institutionalized residency, such as the Prisons, were known to have inflicted upon the person of fellow-residents, violence with unspeakable brutality and savagery. The victims were often the defenceless, weak and vulnerable, institutionalized for their alleged societal transgressions.


Learning institutions, seemed not to have escaped the ‘Scourge of Violence.’ Frequently, the violently-troubled students were either the product of ‘Indigent Families.’ The overwhelming majority of students were known to have come from economically-depressed, or environmentally-neglected communities. Most were in social-isolation, and living at the ‘Edge of Poverty.’ That being irrefutable, likened to parents/guardians, with dreams that appeared illusive, indigent families were not positioned to transform poverty into prosperity.’  Thus, for these students, life meant a constant struggle for survivability, pronounced by ‘Violence.’


Members of society appeared to have learned more about inflicting ‘Weaponized Violence’ upon each other, than of praying and living in peace. In some societies, ‘Violence’ has been a developed culture. In others, it has been the innate nature of man. Still, in others, it has been a necessity for human survivability. The strong must fight to survive. These have always been part of ancient and modern civilization. The ‘Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda,’ provides for all to be guaranteed protection of oneself; defence of persons from violence; property; and the prevention of crime’ [CO: 1981: Section 4].


It was to societal knowledge that when students were seen as being consumed by ‘Anger’ and vexingly troubled, that which was often seen descending upon fellow-students and educators, was vengeful ‘Wrath.’ Invariably, ‘temper tantrums’ had led to skirmishes. These were often progressed to attacks with weapons. Though consequences were foreseeable, the violence exacted often speaks to bodily injuries. That which principals, educators and parents and guardians often found incomprehensible, was that which may have provoked such violence.


As it relates to ‘Violence at School,’ this was often occasioned or instigated by; (a) ‘The pressure of attending students, diametrically opposed to each other; or (b) Block-headed drop-outs; or (c) Students from other learning institutions.’ Taking the personal and ‘Ministerial View’ that students’ safety and protection and learning, were best guaranteed in a violence-free environment,’ then ‘Education Minister, Dr. Jacqui Quinn-Leandro’ took the decision, thereby stamped the ‘Ministry’s Authority.’ Thus, wherever violence showed a trending prevalence in the learning institutions, it is to be stamped out completely.


These officials shall know that students exhibiting a propensity for violence, shall not only attract the attention of educators, but also that of ‘Directors and Ministers of Education.’ They also have a pivotal role to play. Their voices shall be heard in disciplinary-troubled learning institutions. By virtue of their positions, these senior ‘Ministry officials’ shall always show leadership. Hence, they shall be seen as having; (a) ‘Stakes in education; (b) Students’ safety and physical well-being.’ They shall be seen as reckless not to know that they have as much a ‘Collective Responsibility,’ as have been ‘Principals and the teaching staff.


When students sought to unleash violence against others, and officials authoritatively positioned to assist ‘School Principals,’ but remained deafeningly silent, they run the risk of being seen as inactive and impotent. They shall be reckless not to know that they too, share responsibility with members of the teaching fraternity for ‘Disciplinary Control’ within the learning institutions. They shall know the difference between sitting behind a desk and standing before a class with even ‘One disruptive school Bully.’


These officials, shall know that at all material times, they form the ‘Nucleus of the Teaching Fraternity.’ Consequently, both shall always endeavor to encourage the creation of an environment that shall not only be seen as conducive to teaching and learning, but also for the exhibition of acceptable disciplinary student behavior. They shall not allow any learning institution, principal, teaching staff, nor student body with tainted image or left to stigmatism for reasons of uncontrollable and abhorrent and intolerable student violence.


That which appeared to have been most troubling to the learning institutions, has been the apparent disruptive, misguided, recalcitrant and ill-mannered students. These, seemingly in the minority, were reported to have often exhibited behaviors, with a consistency and proneness to violence. Seemingly, that which ‘former Education Minister, Dr. Jacqui Quin-Leandro’ had embarked upon, saw no further implementation. Left to speculation, had it been, it may very well have resonated among educators and student bodies.


That which often appeared most troubling to ‘Principals, educators, student bodies, parents and guardians,’ were misunderstandings that invariably progressed to ‘Weaponized Fights.’ That which was to be understood, was that when students fought, it reflected no fault, neither of the learning institutions, nor the inability of principals and teaching staff. Societally, speaking to brutally extreme violence, this shall be the juncture to focus on two acts of ‘Savagery and Barbarism.’ These have been unleashed upon two hapless, innocent and defenceless females several decades ago. Readers are advised that some researched contents might be distressing.


On the fateful morning, it began with using a ‘Short-Cut’ in getting to her ‘TN Kirnon School. It saw one of the most ‘Gruesome Killings,’ ever to have been criminally recorded in the nation. The body of ‘Jemuel Samuel,’ lay half-alive, in the ‘Garden of Death.’ Rushed for emergency medical attention, even the consummate ‘Medical officers,’ including ‘Dr. Bertrand O’Marde (deceased), were unsuccessful in a desperate surgical attempt to saving her life. News of the vicious killing jolted the school community into revulsion, while shock and awe reverberated across the entire nation.


Some eighteen (18) years ago, in cold-blood, a murderer struck. Sorrow and grief descended upon ‘Corporal Dwayne Samuel’ and his family. When the lifeless body of his ‘10-year-old daughter, Jemuel Samuel’ was discovered at the ‘Botanical Gardens,’ Medical officers confirmed that her ‘Throat’ had been ‘Savagely and Mercilessly Slit.’ Her body laid motionless. Her blood not only drenched her school’s uniform, but also saturated the soil on which it fatally and profusely flowed [June 29, 2006].


Likened to the family, principals, educators and student bodies of the nation’s learning institutions, were all left horrified and petrified. Moved to action, then ‘Education Minister Jacqui Quinn-Leandro’ the mobilization and protestation by interest groups and general public. Be it physically or psychologically, she moved quickly into denouncing violence in all shape or form. Bringing national consciousness of the troubling issue, she rallied with family and concerned and distraught citizens.


That which was most horrifying, a family was left traumatized and grief-stricken. The school-attending days of an innocent female Primary School student ended suddenly and tragically. Taking an early morning ‘Fateful Short-Cut’ through the ‘Botanical Gardens.’ The regularly-used ‘Short-Cut’ by general public and students attending schools in the environs, had conveniently provided ‘through-access.’ Such access may have been encouraged by a perimeter fence, that appeared starved for mending.


The violence unleashed upon this student, had clearly prompted the personal and ministerial concerns of ‘Education Minister, Dr. Jacqui Quinn-Leandro. Expressing intolerance for ‘Societal Violence’ and that affecting learning institutions, she reportedly’ took a ‘Ministerial Policy-Decision.’ She was mindful of the vulnerability and defencelessness of women and girls. Clearly, with delirious fury, she whipped-up community, constituency and national support. The criminal act, saw an organized and adequately responded to, public march and ‘Candle-Light Vigil.’


This was aimed at lending ‘Ministerial Support’ to her family, the principal and teaching staff. This was not only suggestive of a testimony of her personal concerns, but also speaks to her abhorrence of violence within the society and learning institutions. Such was to be extended to students, whether at home, or on the way to, or at school and back to their respective homes. It was also intended to sensitize parents and guardians of that which shall obtain for students exposed to societal influences and associated danger within the non-school environment.


In today’s society, not only the ‘Legal’ cultural landscape appears to have drastically changed, but also the human ‘Spirit of Goodness.’ Though they may still be a few practitioners among the ‘Pro Bonoers,’ those that remain in the memory under a shining light were; (i) ‘The Henson Stevens; (ii) Ralph Francis’; (iii) John Fullers; (iv) Dane Hamiltons KC; and Sylvia O’Mardes.’ In their heydays, they have always endeavored to render assistance to the ‘unrepresented defendants.’ They appeared not to have been in it only for a ‘Retainer’s Fee.’ They understood the plight of humanity, particularly, that of society’s indigent families.


Undoubtedly, ‘Shared Sorrow,’ may have influenced the personal involvement of then ‘Education Minister.’  There were immediate calls to then ‘Commissioner of Police, Delano Christopher’ in bringing ‘Investigative Closure’ to the heinous criminal act. That which public and environmental pressure appeared to have done, was not only troubling, but also educationally destructive. From a professional perspective, this was to be seen by the clearly ‘Unlawful Arrest’ of an innocent 14-year-old male student of the said school.


In heightened grief, it was most heart-rending for another family. A ‘Rumored Allegation’ and apparent impotent team of criminal investigations, saw the criminalization of a 14-year-old student. Arrested and remanded to then ‘Her Majesty’s Prisons (HMP)’ appeared as psychologically-painful as has been for the bereaved family. Careful perusal of an apparent ‘slap-dash prepared Case File,’ saw then ‘Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Anthony Armstrong,’ avoided public and environmental pressures. Evidentially, he determined that; ‘There was not even an iota of evidence’ to proceed against the accused [Antigua Sun: 2007].


Even as the innocent student had been released from a ‘9-month prison remand, the ‘Unlawful Arrest,’ effectively brought an end to his school-attending days. Incidentally, ‘Family Indigence’ appeared to have been the militating factor against litigious proceedings and consequences against law enforcers [CO: 1981: Section 5 (7)]. The well known ‘Pro Bono Attorneys’ have either transitioned or have shelved criminal practice.


The heinous nature of the crime, was not only viewed as reminiscent, but also comparably marginal to the reported ‘Beheading’ of an adult female identified as ‘Ethlyn Richards.’ Highlighting her killing in a social commentary, was her brother, ‘Sir Paul Richards KCN.’ Singing to the ‘Senselessness and Brutality,’ the widely known artist, fondly called ‘King Obstinate’ appeared neither to have been impressed, nor satisfied with Police investigations.


Equally as much as the savagery descended upon the ‘Student Jemuel Samuel,’ has been the gruesome beheading of ‘Ethlyn Richards.’ Earnestly, but graphically ‘Sir Paul Richards KCN,’ as ‘King Obstinate’ sang; ‘They chop off she head from she body; And send she to eternity; So much Police in the place; Police up and down in van; They locking up rasta man; Government money going to waste; and Murders, they can’t find a trace.’ He then asked; ‘Wright George, tell me, who killed me sister Ethlyn?’ [1977]. Then some twenty (20) years later [1997], the nation saw much more than human savagery.


Then there was a common law relationship, said to have been marked with constant physical and psychological abuse. Threats that were never taken lightly, reportedly produced constant fear. Eventually, with a checkered history, it saw the alleged abuser, ‘Atley Alexander,’ being jilted. The populace then saw the ‘Fiery Deaths’ of; (i) ‘A 9-month pregnant mother, Jacqueline Simon; and a teen and pre-teen daughter; (ii) ‘Amber James 13; and (iii) Sophia Jones 10.’ The extremely burned fourth member of the family, and eldest daughter Jackelyn James 19,’ narrowly escaped from the inferno and horrific tragedy.


Mercilessly vengeful, eyewitnesses accounts spoke to a ‘1. 30 Am Inferno.’ They were all victimized by a notorious and most dangerous and deadly arsonist, Attley Alexander.’ Given the alias ‘Devil,’ under cover of darkness, the ‘Devil Cut Loose,’ and was in burning mood. The wooden tenement that housed the family of four, be daughters, became engulfed. It was razed to the ground. A heat-awakened the eldest daughter, though disoriented, yet seemingly with presence of mind, with head and clothing ablaze, she reportedly jumped through a fire-damaged window [December 17, 1997].


Narrowly, she escaped death, having sustained serious bodily injuries. Amazingly, on a single indictment of Murder, tried and convicted, the mandatory sentence of death, was commuted to a ‘42-year ‘Custodial Sentence.’ The triple-murder-convict, continues to languish at ‘His Majesty’s Prisons.’


While school discipline and orderliness have always been part of the educator’s ‘Collective Responsibility,’ risking physical injuries through weaponized attacks, has neither part of the teaching process, nor an obligation legally imposed on educators in subjecting themselves to violence, be it in the wider society or by students. Even so, the teaching fraternity is not only looked upon to create an enabling environment, but also to affect behavioral change in the violence-prone student,’ an unachievable objective by even the most senior educational officials.


In the wider society, that which often follows was that at social gatherings, when violence erupted, the highly inebriated often provoked the wrath of others. At sports facilities, an accidental or deliberate kick, elbow or heads often precipitated fights. Other interests, were known to have provoked the same. Among students, that which was most feared, were those that showed no hesitation in resorting to inflicting ‘Weaponized Violence’ against each other. The armed students had often caused students and teaching staff to take evasive action.


As it affects fist fights among students, these were often occasioned by the aggressive and lack of self-control students. In fact, ‘Bullying Students,’ always appeared inclined to create ‘Mayhem.’ It has been the experience that violence intended for others, was inflicted upon interventionists. Fights that have escalated beyond an educator’s intervention, was for reasons of ‘Transferred Malice.’ Hence, it was not necessarily that educators had been cowed into being mere eyewitness.


That which the ‘Education Minister’ knew then, and shall know now by ‘Education Minister, Darell Matthew,’ is that only fools rushed in where angels feared.’ In the vicious ‘Ottos Comprehensive School (OCS), ‘Weaponized Attack,’ then ‘Education Minister, Dr. Jacqui Quinn-Leandro’ told Parliament; ‘Somewhere in the brawl, under attack, the victim’ reportedly stabbed the cutlass-wielding attacker in the head; The Secretary ran into an inner office, while the female Principal cowered in a corner, hoping that she might be spared serious injuries’ [Antigua November 4, 2011].


Removing oneself from physical harm has been a natural human response to danger. This was particularly the case when a person seemed angered and moved to inflict weaponized violence against his fellow-men. In the case of ‘School Violence,’ ‘Weaponized Attacks’ on fellow-students have all been documented. That which appeared obvious, was that ‘Education Minister, Dr. Jacqui Quinn-Leandro’ was acutely aware that there would have been student rivalry.


She also knew that there was always the likelihood of retaliatory and counter attacks. A ministerial reflection on the that which had potential to develop into an institutionalized scourge,’ showed a pragmatic and decisive approach by ‘former Education Minister, Dr. Jacqui Quinn-Leandro.’ Aware of, but clearly not necessarily concerned about the concept called ‘Micro-Management,’ she sought to assist principals and educators with ‘Ministerial Intervention.’


Mindful of the societal and socializing influences, she appeared well-positioned to address that which had potential to affect student’s discipline, grades and educational achievements, and sought to ensure a stable learning environment.

From a diverse background, among a student body, conflicts were inevitable. Clearly, with ‘Foresight and Purposiveness,’ she had taken a ‘Policy-Decision.’ Such was intended to encourage resolution of conflicts among violence-prone students.


She was fully aware that ‘Bullying and Violence,’ were having negative impact on the student’s education and had vowed to stamp these out completely, be it on premises; class rooms; field-trips; or at sports facilities. Envisioning and devising rationally-considered ‘Ministerial Measures,’ for school bullies, was to be a correctible ‘Regimental programme. This was geared toward; (a) ‘Instilling a sense of civic pride and responsibility; and (b) An environment for ‘Team-spiritedness’ among students, with mutual respect for each other.


That which had captured national attention, had been the senseless and brutal ‘Weaponized Attack’ within a learning institution. Ministerially-obligated to sensitize parliamentary colleagues, she stated; ‘On Friday 4, November 2011, there was a major incident at the ‘Ottos Comprehensive School (OCS).’ With an awareness that attacks with weapon could create ‘Mayhem,’ she sought to discourage fights, with or without offensive weapons. Though pens and pencils were capable of being weaponized, these, in school bags would have been legitimately possessed.


She was aware that in the event of disagreement, the aggressive students would most likely brandish, and wield these weapons with ‘Blood-Spilling Effect.’ She was adamant that exacting violence against fellow-students was neither the way, nor the answer in resolving conflicts. Providing details of weapons unsuspectedly concealed among ‘Textbooks’ in school bags, she identified them as; (i) ‘Cutlass; (ii) Knives; and (iii) A pair of scissors.’


The weapons identified were those being daily domestically used in the ‘homes; by farmers; butchers; bush and wattle-cutters; seamstresses; barbers; and nurses and doctors.’ Continuing the ‘Parliamentary Statement,’ she stated; ‘Teachers, students and parents scampered, as the student who brandished the cutlass, ultimately corned a student in the Secretary’s office and chopped him. He was further chopped in several places. This student sustained several wounds about the body, including; (a) ‘Head; (b) Hand; and (c) Back.’


In graphic and ‘Blood-Curdling Description,’ she continued; ‘There was blood everywhere. Then ‘Two male teachers’ either fearing, but risking serious harm intervened.’ Stated the ‘Minister;’ The teachers desperately tried to restrain the attacker and prevented further bloodshed.’ Speaking to the ‘Brutal’ nature of the attack, she posited; ‘The extremely ‘Brutal Afternoon’ appeared to be ‘Gang-Related’ [November 16, 2011].


This incident led to brief industrial action by the Teachers. The as a consequence, ‘The Ministry sought and obtained Police presence at the school.’ At the end of a ‘Ministry’s investigation into the incident, it was determined that the circumstances warranted the expulsion of six (6) students in accordance with the ‘Education Act’ [ Section 54 (1) (e): No. 27 of 2008]. Consequently, six (6) male students were expelled from further attendance at the educational institution.’


While there was mixed-reaction to her ‘Ministerial Decisiveness,’ the implemented course of action, had brought some measure of respite to parents and guardians, Principals and other educators. The overwhelming majority believed that only an environment that was conducive to teaching and learning could come from being decisive and pro-active. She had as much concerns about ‘Violence’ at school, as has been that of the teaching staff at every institution for learning.

While none shall harbor, or entertain thoughts that ‘Societal and School Violence,’ speaks to little prevalence, none shall also publish news stories in a manner that could influence the thought process of general public.


In civil society, it has been accepted by the overwhelming majority of people that (a) ‘The Law shall be the protectorate for the law-abiding; (b) The ‘Medical’ facilities shall be the caring place for the seriously injured; (c) The ‘Prison’ shall be the holding place for the violently-prone; while (d) Likened to the defenceless victims, the ‘Grave’ shall be resting place for even those that have perpetrated violence against his fellow-men. Frequently, media personnel were seen to delight in sensationalism and dramatization.


Law enforcement training guides professional knowledge that; ‘Law’ is a ‘Rule of Conduct’ prescribed by some superior, by which an inferior shall obey.’ Thus, for the wider society, ‘Parliament,’ as the ‘Superior,’ legislates ‘Laws’ for societal control. This means that both the people and State are considered the ‘Inferior.’ Both are not only legally required to show allegiance, but are also bound to obey the Law’ [Founding Constitutional Principle: ‘D’]. Legal sanctions loom for the reckless, violent and disobedient.  ***

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