354 James Walter Francis Drive
RJT Edifice Building, 5th Floor
Road Town, TORTOLA VG1110
Tel: 284 468 2730
Fax: 284 468 2750
Madam Speaker, in recent weeks there has been an upsurge of extreme misconduct at some of our secondary schools. In fact, Madam Speaker, I can regrettably confirm that some of our students are threatening the lives of their peers, teachers, administrators, and security officers and are threatening to destroy school property. Additionally, Madam Speaker, our schools have found students in possession of marijuana and marijuana products as well as e-cigarettes and alcohol. Brass knuckles with knives attached are being confiscated from students far too frequently. Schools have also reported a significant issue with students bringing oversized splat-ball or pellet guns and using them to shoot at others after school.
Madam Speaker, in September of 2022, I, in my capacity as Minister of Education, met with about fifteen students and their parents regarding their repeated misbehaviour during the last school year, and the school’s intervention plan and expectations were clearly outlined to all present. Madam Speaker, both students and parents were required to sign a behaviour contract which outlined the school’s Code of Conduct and Discipline Policy. While some of those students have earnestly tried to improve their behaviour, Madam Speaker, the same is not true for others.
As an added measure to address the growing concerns with students’ behaviour, one secondary school in particular added work duty, in school suspension, counselling, engaging internal and external mentors and detention to their litany of strategies intended to remedy disruptive conduct. Here again, Madam Speaker, while some students have benefitted from this wrap around approach, others continue to have no regard for the school’s policies regarding student conduct.
Even with all these measures added, schools continue to grapple with a significant number of infractions. Madam Speaker, the behaviours described above are being perpetuated by a very small percent of the overall student population. However, 100% of the time of the schools’ administrators, teachers and security officers are consumed addressing these matters and critical instructional time is being repeatedly disrupted. Madam Speaker, this cannot continue.
The Ministry of Education stands squarely with all our schools in declaring an absolute zero tolerance approach with regard to the perpetuation of behaviours of extreme misconduct such as those mentioned above. Madam Speaker, this means that students who are caught with drugs or drug paraphernalia, edibles, alcohol, knives or toy guns and students who engage in gang fights or threaten teachers or other staff will face the requisite consequences as this type of behaviour cannot be allowed to continue.
Madam Speaker, the Ministry has also engaged the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force and has requested increased patrols of schools and their surrounding areas, and strategic assistance with investigations in matters of extreme infractions as necessary.
Madam Speaker, the Ministry has also engaged the Department of Youth Affairs and Sports and intend to engage with youth, sports and other organizations in an effort to create additional opportunities for intervention and support for students who express a willingness to improve and receive the assistance needed. Madam Speaker, the Ministry remains committed to the aforementioned and will do everything possible to reach every single child that is within our remit. However, the unfortunate circumstances that have arisen also makes it evident that it is also critical for us to collectively as a territory take this zero tolerance stance at this time.
Madam Speaker, we encourage parents to talk with their children about the potential implications of engaging in misbehaviour and we also encourage the community to assist us in this regard.
The vast majority of this territory’s students are conscientious young people, who are driven by their aspirations and crave a safe and innovative school setting that prepares them for the future they have imagined for themselves. Madam Speaker, the Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Sports is dedicated to ensuring that they receive exactly that.
Thank you Madam Speaker.