Siparia West Secondary School students on the school’s compound in La Brea Trace, Siparia, yesterday.2/21/22

Parents of students at the Siparia West Secondary School are threatening to keep their children at home as violence continues at the institution.

But the Ministries of Education and National Security are seeking to break that trend.

Authorities are moving to implement more stringent measures during break and lunchtime patrols, Guardian Media was told yesterday.

Last Thursday, two fights broke out on the school compound. In one incident, a student was stamped on repeatedly by a group of boys, while in another, a Form Four student was attacked and sought to fend off the boys using what appeared to be a knife.

Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly yesterday confirmed that one student required medical attention but was discharged fairly quickly from the institution.

Guardian Media understands that six students have since been suspended for a week.

It’s becoming the unfortunate norm at the school.

In fact, there are several online videos that show students brutalising and extorting each other.

There is a history of disruptive behaviour at the school.

Former principal Sonnylal Sookoo was suspended in 2017 following an altercation with a student. He was later reinstated.

And in 2019, then Education Minister Anthony Garcia sought to intervene after identifying the issues at the school.

A report blamed a breakdown of school systems, a lack of leadership, poor student attendance and a 25 per cent daily teacher absenteeism rate.

Three years later, the new Education Minister is now asking for a report on the “substance and results of any interventions made at this specific school.”

Gadsby-Dolly admitted that while school social workers assist with defusing situations of violence, in some cases, more stringent measures may be required.

This is welcome news for the parents, as it appears that the only thing that gave the school a respite from the violence and aggression was the forced closure of the institutions due to COVID-19.

This is because on February 7 when face-to-face learning restarted, the violence resumed as if the students’ routine was never broken.

“On the first day of his rotation, five boys approached my son and told him he had to pay them in order to be in the school.He had 25 dollars which I gave him that morning, he spent $4 and they took the other $21,” a parent told Guardian Media under the condition of anonymity.

That parent said their son was excited to start the school term, as he had not set foot in school since he passed the SEA exam.

“He is fearful now, he has asked if he could stay home but the ministry has stopped that. He has only gone to school physically for one day because he didn’t want to go back to be bullied for his money. I don’t want to force him to go but what else can I do?” the parent also said.

Another concerned parent said it seems as if the trouble makers have unofficial immunity at the school.

“There isn’t proper security, but even with their presence, they themselves are afraid of the students. Teachers are saying it is not their responsibility to look after the kids all day, which I do understand but they have to remember we are sending our children there under the condition that they will be safe,” that parent said.

The parents shared a text message from a teacher at the school who said there is very little they can do.

“I know you all are worried about the situation, I will not tell you to send your child to school or keep them home, the decision is yours but there is only so much the staff can do. You think they would be afraid to injure a teacher, but they are not,” the message said.

Guardian Media reached out to one former school member who also asked that his identity be withheld.

He said, “It’s very hard to get these children to learn and behave, the children they send to that school, about 90 per cent are children who scored between 0 to 30 in exams.”

The former educator said there are also many cases where the students enter Form One at the age of 16.

He told Guardian Media several things were attempted to channel the students’ energy into something productive.

“We tried to play little games in class, even taking them to the field so they could be more active but it’s very difficult to do that with them, nothing we tried work,” he said.

But Gadsby-Dolly is hoping to find a solution. For now, some short-term measures are being put in place.

“More stringent break and lunchtime patrols will be implemented and the school also has a close relationship with the community police,” she said.

But the minister added that parents must also remind students of expected behaviour and respect for others.

“Their role cannot be overlooked,” she said.