Jamaica Gleaner / Upon arriving at the main entrance to the Edith Dalton James High School in St Andrew on weekday mornings, students will have to first make their way past a walk-through metal detector, similar to the ones used at airports, before being granted access to school grounds.
Edith Dalton James High School was recently listed by the Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Ruel Reid, as one of four secondary institutions which would be fitted with walk-through metal detectors, following instances of fatal and non-fatal stabbings at the schools.
The launch of the new metal detector initiative materialised Wednesday, by way of a partnership between the education ministry and USAID.
“Annually we would find more than a thousand weapons across our high schools; largely short and long knives and little machetes. Some of them will say that the community they are from is volatile and they have to protect themselves to go back home. It is not necessarily that they want to use it at school, but they have it on their person and will draw it when they are in confrontation,” Reid said on Wednesday. “Weapons are not allowed and so, we as policymakers have to ensure that our communities, our roads, and our transportation system are safe for our children.”
Fifteen-year-old Clive Matherson was stabbed to death at the institution in October.
Edith Dalton James High School was named alongside Brown’s Town High, Anchovy High, and Norman Manley High, as schools that would receive walk-through and hand-held metal detectors.
The cost of the improved Safety and Security in Schools project, as it is labelled, is estimated at US$3 million.
“We certainly would love to install more CCTV cameras and (other systems) to better manage the issue of safety and security. It is best to err on the side of caution. They are young people, and tend to be very emotional. In that rage and anger, they may call for a weapon. Our campuses ought to be places of learning, with a nurturing culture of discipline, to maximise learning,” Reid has said.
Every school should have metal detectors – principal Edith Dalton James High School’s principal, Orlando Worges, welcomed the installation of the new walk-through metal detector system at the school. However, he has refuted arguments that the institution was chosen as one of the first schools to receive this because of violence occurring there more often than at any other institution.
“My assurance to not just parents, but also to Jamaica, is that we cannot even be named among the top 100 most violent schools in Jamaica. My students have been cooperative. They are growing and becoming more mature at solving conflicts and we had employed several initiatives, even before this happened, to treat with the social ills of the students and we’ve seen significant growth. In fact, what happened on October 5 was not even a fight.”
“The metal detector is welcomed. In fact, I believe every school (must have one). Human relations go bad from time to time, but this is not a school issue, it is a learnt behaviour. The West Bank type of justice comes from the communities, so we have to look at more social intervention at the community level,” the principal said.