An unfortunate event

Meadowbrook High School Principal Kevin Facey has described the melee involving two groups of female students last Friday as “an unfortunate event” that the 64-year-old institution is now having “to walk through”.

The incident, a video of which has since gone viral, happened at the end of the school day and involved females from grades 11, 10, eight, and nine.

In the video, portions of which were seen by the Jamaica Observer, the feuding group threw punches and tore at each other’s tunics and hair while hurling expletives amidst shrieks. Several male students were seen attempting to part the enraged females. Two adults also intervened. In instances in which students were parted, pockets of fresh fist fights seemed to develop.

The principal, who was reluctant to divulge the reasons for the fracas despite a leaked recording in which he is heard updating members of staff on the details of the incident, said the fight stemmed “from some interactions over a period of time that was based on two main matters”.

Asked to say what those were, Facey said, “I am not going to tell you the main matters.”

“That was not meant for the public. No one gave permission for that recording to be done, so I am a little bit taken aback as to how to respond to something that was not meant for the public, which has been leaked, which I feel is a breach of my rights,” he said.

He, in the meantime, denied reports that students had been expelled from the school on account of the brawl.

“We did our investigations, we got incident reports and we met with the parents, and we applied the schools’ rules in the handbook and sanctions were handed down. All of this is in keeping with the policies and practice of the Ministry of Education, and we are looking towards remediation upon their return,” Facey told the Observer.

Asked how many students were sanctioned, he said, “All the relevant students we deemed to be serious. More than 80 per cent of the students who were involved were sanctioned. Expulsion is not something a school can do on its own, disciplinary action, including suspension, [was the route taken].”

According to the principal, contrary to a media report quoting a student saying he was in fear daily based on regular fights, the melee seen is not a fair representation of the day-to-day atmosphere at the school.

“Many students have challenges as we return to full school for all, and we have been trying to do the best we can for our students. It does not happen on a daily basis; it is an unfortunate event that we are having to walk through now,” Facey stated.

Further, Facey, who said no serious injuries were reported, told the Observer that he was not aware of any criminal charges being pressed.

“There is the possibility, some of the actions influencing this matter may include activities outside of the school, and if parents want to do what they feel is best, then they can. I don’t know if they will, but it seems as if, for some, those actions may be preferred,” he told the Observer.

Addressing reports that students have been taking weapons onto the school grounds, the principal admitted that even though the institution had been issued hand-held metal detectors by the Ministry of Education, it had not been using them routinely.

“From we got them, we had them, and we have used them from time to time, they are not used as part of the entry requirements to the school compound,” Facey said.

He said the Ministry of Education has been informed of the incident.

The high school, in the meantime, the Observer was told, does not have a dean of discipline but has a senior teacher who is in charge of discipline.

In October, during the launch of an initiative to stem school violence, the education ministry had said it was aiming to reduce the problem by 50 per cent by November 2023. It also indicated that an Inter-Ministerial 25 School Strategy would be operationalised. In that respect, it said a total of 16,000 students in 25 primary and high schools located in zones of special operations will be targeted for behavioural interventions. For Anti-Gang Week, which it has slated for mid-November, the ministry said it will be conducting activities to sensitise stakeholders on how to identify gangs in schools as a primary focus.

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