NASSAU, The Bahamas – A School Resource Officer (SRO) Pilot Program, designed to improve school safety, has been launched by the Ministry of Education and Technical & Vocational Training at public schools in New Providence and is yielding significant results.
The program is a joint partnership between school administrators, security officers and SROs.
The Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin, Minister of Education and Technical & Vocational Training reported to Parliament Monday, June 13, that since the return of SROs to New Providence schools there has been a significant decline in the number of incidents at schools in the pilot program.
“Keeping school students, teachers and staff members safe on those school campuses is a fundamental duty of the Government of The Bahamas. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of school incidents at various local schools, particularly on the island of New Providence. The nature of many of these incidents include weapon possession (typically knives), assaults (fighting), and stabbings. Several of the stabbing incidents resulted in injuries where victims had to be taken to hospital to receive treatment,” she said.
“Adding insult to injury was the fact that a number of these incidents were recorded by fellow students on their devices (cell phones, tablets). The videos were subsequently uploaded and went viral across various social media platforms. This additional exposure of the challenges that we face in school safety has increased the public’s fear of their loved ones being harmed at a place that should be regarded as sacred.”
Minister Hanna-Martin said to assist with improving school safety the Ministry reviewed the findings of an empirical research study of a SRO program conducted by Chief Superintendent Dr. Chaswell Hanna of the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
“In exploring ways by which school safety could be improved, Dr. Hanna’s scientific analyses of school incident data revealed that there were statistically significant lower rates of violent and overall school incidents when SROs were deployed to schools. The study also found significantly higher rates when they were removed from campuses.
“As a result, my Ministry has launched an SRO Pilot Program which involves the re-deployment of SROs at several junior and senior high schools in New Providence. In order to assess the impact of this initiative and to ensure that this program a success, my Ministry will be monitoring the number of school incidents to see if the numbers have been impacted by the program.”
She noted that that the presence of SROs on campuses is one aspect of a much broader and comprehensive plan to improving safety.
She outlined the following key strategic actions points/goals of the plan that are currently being addressed:
1. Ensure that properly trained and internationally certified School Resource Officers are placed in public schools. The first two SROs will be travelling to Aurora, Colorado, in July to complete a 1-week School Resource Officer Course delivered by the National Association of School Resource Officers or (NASRO). Once certified, all SROs will be expected to fulfill their tripartite role of law enforcement, informal mentoring and counseling. They will also be delivering a curriculum in the classroom on a number of safety topics that will educate students on the dangers of drug use, gun violence, gangs, bullying and other topics that impact at-risk youth. In August, it is planned to have NASRO instructors travel to The Bahamas to train and certify another 30 SROs before the start of the fall 2022 school term.
2. Ensure that local stakeholders keep in touch with emerging trends and best practices in school safety. In July, Minister Hanna-Martin will be leading a delegation of senior officials from the Ministry of Education, the Department of Education, and the Royal Bahamas Police Force to attend the 2022 National School Safety Conference in Aurora, Colorado. The delegation, which includes several school principals, will be having private meetings with the executive members of NASRO who will offer expert advice on how to build a successful school safety plan.
3. Ensure that school security officers are also trained and successfully complete the 40-hour Security Officers Course at the Police College of the Royal Bahamas Police Force. The skills that the security officers will develop from this course will assist them in their role as a safety support arm for SROs and school administrators. Train as many school security officers as possible before the start of the fall 2022 school term.
4. The Department of Education will also be facilitating workshops and training seminars for school administrators and teachers on their individual roles in school safety. Presenters will include local safety experts who will highlight the important role they can play as intelligence agents on campus, where they collect and share critical information with the appropriate safety officers to prevent incidents before they occur.
5. Engage and arrange meetings with other important education stakeholders including the Bahamas Union of Teachers, BEMU, BECAWU, BPSU the Ministry of Youth, Sports & Culture, the Ministry of Social Services, the clergy, civil society and community leaders where all ideas and suggestions on how school safety can be improved will be harnessed and considered for the plan.