Former Education Minister says the Assistant COP is not in Charge of School Police – Well of course not, his boss is the COP Greenslade – Bannister talking ‘jackassness’ again!
Did Minnis get run out of North Abaco last week?
Statement by FNM
The Free National Movement is concerned that 200 police officers have been removed from regular policing duties and posted at schools around New Providence, Grand Bahama and Abaco in a “School Policing Programme” the details of which neither the Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of the programme nor the Minister of Education appear to have a clear understanding.
Assistant Commission of Police Leon Bethel, speaking to reporters just outside of a Government-operated school on Monday indicated in no uncertain terms that police officers entering school campuses around the country would not be armed. He said he would not encourage police officers to carry weapons onto school campuses because it was not advisable to have guns around our children or for children to see guns or to become accustomed to guns and the use of guns. We in the FNM agree that guns have no place on our school campuses.
However, the Minister of Education and Technology, Mr. Jerome Fitzgerald interviewed this week on the radio programme “Darrold Miller Live” responded to questions put by Mr. Miller by asserting that police officers “qualified and authorized to carry guns” would be armed when they entered school campuses. The Minister went on to say that he would be meeting with school principals to discuss how the police could work along with them to achieve the goals of the programme.
The Government has had more than sufficient time since May of this year to cause all stakeholders – parents, school administrators, Department of Education officers and the police – to meet, discuss and determine the implementation of the Government’s School Policing Programme so that there would be certainty as to the limits within which the police may act on a school campus.
Parents are right to be concerned that their children are being sent to schools where armed police officers might be questioning children or indeed searching their person and or their personal property without parental consent or legal authority. Parents may well inquire as to what type of conduct will subject their child to police action rather than normal school discipline, as no guidelines have been published. Hence, parents may well fear that relatively minor acts such as shouting in the schoolyard may subject a child to police action, as is the case in Texas.
The Free National Movement fully endorses the need for security officers to be posted at some of our schools which have been harassed by outsiders over the years. However, this is not the job of the police who should be properly deployed on our streets to enforce the law and to serve as a deterrent to crime.
The highly respected non profit group Dignity In Schools points out that in the United States the “vast number of police in schools do not help students flourish or necessarily make schools any safer”. They give the example of a teenager in Texas who was arrested and hauled before the courts after both he and his girlfriend poured milk on each other after breaking up, and they rightly point out that “the more students are treated as criminals for childhood and adolescent behaviors that are part of the natural process of growing up, the faster the United States incarceration rate grows”. Deborah Fowler, the Deputy Director of a Texas public interest law center points out that “extensive research also shows that putting a commissioned police force in schools leads to increased court referrals, placing students at significantly higher risk of failure in school and extended involvement in the juvenile and adult criminal systems”.
Likewise, we may well ask whether we in the Bahamas will be seeing more of our young people being imprisoned in the future because of this short sighted PLP policy?
We in the FNM believe in our youth and we believe that supporting and investing in our youth requires investment in tuition materials, good teachers, guidance counselors and sound, well-equipped schools.
It is regrettable that the PLP Government has chosen instead to label our schools as hot beds of crime and havens for criminal suspects requiring the presence of armed police. Most regrettably, the PLP Government has also embarked on a course of creating a self fulfilling prophecy by labeling our students as potential criminals.