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Jamaica’s education sector is tackling school violence with comprehensive strategies

In response to the escalating violence in schools, Jamaica’s Minister of Education and Youth, Hon. Fayval Williams outlined a multi-pronged strategy during a sector debate in the House of Representatives in 2024/25.

The basis of this initiative is the Safety and Security Policy aimed at preventing incidents at school.

This policy includes a variety of physical security measures, including checking students’ school bags and extensive training programs for school staff on how to spot early warning signs and intervene effectively.

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Additionally, the plan includes counseling students at risk, developing crisis response plans and constructive conflict resolution strategies.

Strengthening support systems in schools

The Ministry has further strengthened the school environment by deploying school resource officers to various agencies who, although not based in schools, continue to offer crucial support.

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Comprehensive behavioral support services are also provided, including external clinician mentoring, parent engagement initiatives, restorative justice training, and student leadership programs.

The data show an urgent need for intervention

From January 2022 to January 2023, the Ministry received 55 critical incident reports, illustrating the severity and variety of acts of violence, from gang-related violence to serious assaults and other threats.

Although these incidents were reported in 50 schools – representing approximately five percent of all educational institutions – the frequency and nature of these events underscore the urgent need for intervention in the so-called “small society” that is Jamaica.

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A concerted effort to reduce school violence

Minister Williams highlighted broader societal influences contributing to school violence, including domestic violence and exposure to inappropriate content and disruptive behavior.

She emphasized the key role of the social and home environment in shaping children’s behavior and attitudes towards violence.

The Minister called for a unified approach across parents, teachers and the wider community to effectively address the root causes of school violence.

Constant challenges and social responsibility

Over the last school year, there has been an increase in violence involving students off school grounds, often exacerbated by a lack of adult intervention and peer encouragement of such behavior.

The minister stressed that violence, whether on or off school premises, is unacceptable and requires immediate and collective action to prevent it.