Black Immigrant Daily News
The principal of the Clare Hall Secondary School, Ashworth Azille, has written to parents about the traumatic incident that occurred on the compound on Tuesday, January 3. He is assuring them that serious steps will be taken to prevent future breaches and counseling services will be provided for those who have been traumatized.
Yesterday afternoon, two masked, armed men breached the school’s perimeter fence and ran about the compound apparently in search of a particular student.
In his January 31 letter, Azille reports that, at about 12:40 p.m., two young men entered the compound with their faces concealed and carrying a cutlass and golf club.
Azille says that a member of the custodial staff observed the duo in the vicinity of the Form Five building, maneuvering as though they were searching for someone. The staff member was able to alert the principal and faculty to their presence, and, in the process, prompt the intruders to run away.
At the time of the incident there were two security officers on duty; however, the armed men were able to gain entry to the school plant.
A report was made to the Police, who responded in a timely manner, the principal says. But in spite of the officers’ quick response, they were unable to apprehend the intruders, who had already fled from the scene.
This incident, Azille says, prompted the early dismissal of school at 1:10 p.m. – 20 minutes ahead of the usual time – once it was determined there was no longer a threat to students or faculty.
But while he and the staff are “truly thankful that no one sustained any physical injuries,” he says he is acutely aware that many students and teachers were traumatized by the incident.
Therefore, a team of counselors will be available today, Wednesday, February 1, to speak with those students and teachers “who may wish to unpack” Tuesday’s experience.
In the meantime, Azille is guaranteeing parents that the safety and wellbeing of the students and the faculty remain a high priority.
He notes, too, that Tuesday’s incident has highlighted the need for the school to improve its emergency-response protocol, and this matter will be addressed immediately.
In addition, Ministry of Education officials will have to intensify their current discussions on improved school security and deviant behaviour among the youth, he says.
Security at the Clare Hall Secondary School was breached today, January 31, when two masked and armed men appeared on the compound, panicking both students and teachers, and causing school to be dismissed early.
According to a source, the two men, wearing ski masks, jumped the school’s perimeter fence and, armed with cutlasses, allegedly went in search of a particular student.
Reportedly, the masked men made their way to the First- and Second-form block trying to locate the intended victim.
It is alleged that, upon seeing the weapon-carrying intruders, the pupils scampered to get to a safe place, some jumping through classroom windows.
A female student, a member of the track-and-field team, is said to have run for her life, as one of the bandits threatened to chop her with a cutlass.
The men’s presence on the compound created fear and panic among the student and teaching population. While no one was injured during the intrusion, the Police and the Ministry of Education were notified about the incident, and the secondary school was dismissed ahead of schedule.
A 10-second video of the two bandits running through the school with their cutlasses in hand, went into wide circulation following the incident.
Parents who went to the school to collect their children – and other adults who have no children at the institution – have reported being just as frightened by the incident as those who were present.
School violence has become a major source of concern to many residents, who fear that their children might be the next victim.
Last year, in the wake of two incidents in which schoolboys from the Princess Margaret School and the Antigua Grammar School, respectively, were chopped, one man told REAL News he was prepared to get violent, himself, should any of his sons be targeted.
As a consequence of the rising incidence of youth-on-youth violence, another secondary school cancelled a fun and fund-raising evening walk, since one of its students had also been victimized.
Some parents are calling on Minister of Education Darryl Matthew and the Browne Cabinet to beef up security – not only in numbers, but in the ability to handle such incidents.
If the Administration fails to get serious about such protection, one mother says, she is encouraging the Teachers Union to strike and parents to support their action.
Another mother says she hopes the Ministry of Education will provide counselors, on Wednesday, to speak with the traumatized students and staff.
In the meantime, despite the alleged increase in police and army patrols of the school compounds, break-ins and thefts have continued.
Promises to install cameras and improve security measures were made by the Cabinet – as recently as last week – but, to date, have not materialized.
Meanwhile, Government is said to owe millions of dollars to the private security companies, thereby preventing them from adding more personnel to the night shifts, in particular.
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