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Columns : Opinions - Joye Ritchie Greene Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

Voice of Authority, whose is it?
By Joye Ritchie-Greene
Feb 18, 2008 - 11:45:37 AM

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The debate about whether or not police officers should return to the government high schools in New Providence and Grand Bahama returned after two stabbing incidences on those islands two weeks ago. While the president of The Bahamas Union of Teachers is adamant about these law enforcers not taking up residence in the halls of education, some leaders in the Official Opposition as well as ordinary citizens believe a police presence is definitely needed to curb the high level of violent crime and criminal acts in the schools.

Arguments for the return of the police officers suggest that the mere presence of these correctional officers will help deter negative, anti-social behaviour in students. However, the individuals who argue against this police presence in schools suggest that the authority of teachers and administrators may be usurped or perceived to be lessened in someway.

While both arguments have some validity, it is interesting to note that this conundrum in which we find ourselves is not unique to The Bahamas. In fact, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America have all gone through this debate to determine whether or not to place police in their schools.

This year will mark the 60th anniversary of the Los Angeles School Police Department (LASPD) that was established in 1948 “to create a safe and tranquil environment for the students, teachers and staff of the Los Angeles Unified School District” ( www.laspd.com ).

In 2002, the then Education Minister in the United Kingdom, ruled that the new Safer Schools Partnerships “will help to address the high levels of crime and anti-social behaviour committed in and around schools in some areas by and against young people.” ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/1956932.stm )

Furthermore, in 1988, in response to a number of perceived problems, the then chief commissioner of Victoria Police became convinced that it was necessary to involve police in the school's formal and informal curricula in a more permanent way ( http://www.aic.gov.au/policing/case_studies/schools.html ). This Police/Schools Involvement Program has clear attainable objectives and documented case studies that confirm the effectiveness of this programme.

When the PLP government decided to put police in the schools, their reasons may have been very similar to those of the Australians, Americans and British; however very little if any documented proof has been provided to justify replacing the police in the schools. Perhaps if doubtful individuals saw some statistical data to support the positive effects of having police in the schools, the FNM government might be convinced to reverse its decision.

However, while the presence of police in schools is an accepted practice in major developed countries it does not answer the question of authority. In any given society, institution or home, there is an individual of authority at the helm. And, the minute that authority is put into question or threatened in any way, the institution crumbles.

When a principal is unable to make decisions on his own because of interference from the Superintendent of Schools or the Director of Education, he will become frustrated and this will affect the running of his school. When a teacher is unable to run her class as she sees fit because the Head of her Department or the Principal is constantly interfering and trying to usurp her position, her students will lose respect for her.

Likewise when teachers constantly send students to the office for disciplinary correction rather than managing classroom problems themselves, they will lose their students’ respect as well as lose control of the classroom. Just imagine then what would happen when police officers are placed on campus as “enforcers.”

If the students don’t recognize and respect the teachers and administrators as the authority on the campus, there will be greater chaos that the police will not be able to contain. If the police get back in the schools what’s going to be next?

It was more than 10 years ago that Massachusetts, USA tabled a bill to outlaw spanking children. Yes, even in the privacy of your own home! This may sound extreme to some of you, simply because you believe you have the right to be the authority figure in your home. Similarly, there are teachers and principals who believe that they ought to retain that right in their schools and not relinquish that authority to the police.

Australia and other countries who advocate the use of police in their schools, have documented the positive outcome of such programmes. Perhaps if The Bahamas is going to move in that direction, a proper programme needs to be developed. Such a programme must allow the teachers and principals to retain their authority on the campus while providing the intellectual, emotional, spiritual, physical and social skills necessary to develop the whole person.

About the author: Joye Ritchie-Greene is an Educational Consultant, Writer and Martial Arts Instructor. She is the owner/operator of The Bahamas Martial Arts Academy; president of Time-Out Productions; and is also a columnist for the Freeport News. She has a B.A. in English and an M.S. in Human Resources, resides in Freeport, Grand Bahama with her husband and enjoys playing tennis. Joye can be reached at joye_hel_ena@hotmail.com  

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