Smooth start to school year in Manchester despite abduction threat

MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Even as there was a smooth reopening of schools in this south-central parish, school leaders, parents and their children were in fear following a viral threat made by a man on social media platform
TikTok
to abduct women and children here.

Head of the Manchester police, Superintendent Shane McCalla said the man, who was taken into police custody for questioning, appeared to have a mental health challenge.

“Initial observation that has been made is that [he] is displaying signs of mental health issues and as such, whilst we do our part as the police, there is also another aspect to where the Ministry of Health personnel are also on board,” he told journalists on Monday.

In a 55-second TikTok video the man is heard saying, “I am promising all of you that live in Mandeville that on Monday when school returns, I will be taking all girl kids. I will be driving around and I will be taking your child. I will be taking all women and all girls, because we need them for an experiment. The devil needs them for an experiment…”

Principal of Mile Gully Primary in north-western Manchester, Heiley Salabie-Knight said the school took the threat seriously.

“A few parents gave us some encouragement to be vigilant in keeping ourselves and our students safe. At this time, even though we do not have a security guard, we do have someone who supervises the gate,” she said, whilst thanking Jamalco for sponsoring the replacement of the school’s gate.

Salabie-Knight further stated that the threat did not deter 183 students from enjoying red-carpet treatment at school.

“We were fully prepared to receive our students. We thought that we needed to show our students such honour in terms of coming back to us, so we wanted to give them a feeling of excitement coming back to the physical space. We rolled out the red carpet for them, giving them a Hollywood feeling,” she said.

Ivel Blake, who was among parents at the school, said she was worried about the high level of crime.

“Mi nuh feel good at all, too many bad things happening in this country. We haffi just look out of our eyes, look behind, walk and look over we shoulder fi see what going on, and try to keep ourselves safe,” she said.

New Green Primary Principal Christophe’ Russell said his school has strict security measures.

“What we have done is that what normally happens [is that] parents have to come and pick their children up. Any taxi driver who comes to pick them up must come to the office, so their particulars must be on file — so if is not there we don’t release the child,” he explained, adding that the first day of school went smoothly for the population of 359 students, including 215 boys.

Principal of Villa Road Primary in Mandeville, Brent James also took the threat seriously.

“It is something that we have been monitoring since morning. We have already addressed the parents, several of whom are here to see off the school day. Over the years we have had issues with parents collecting their children in a timely manner, and with this heightened threat — which we are treating seriously — we again impressed on the parents how important it is to make the necessary arrangements for pick up to ensure the safety and security of their children,” he said.

Russell was also pleased with the turnout of 341 students on Monday and said he is hoping that as the week progresses he will see more students coming out.

Shamar Dayes, who was among parents on the school compound for most of Monday, said she took the threat seriously.

“Because for one to send out such a video saying that he is going to take away children and females you have to be concerned about your children — not just the girls, but also the boys,” reasoned Dayes.

Meanwhile, Belair High Principal Conrad Jones said he sensitised the 700 students who turned up for school on security measures.

“They shouldn’t travel alone but must try and travel as a group to stave off any major attacks or kidnapping attempts on them… For our campus, we have security points. We also have cameras right around,” he informed.

Principal of Bishop Gibson High School for Girls in Mandeville, Donna Legister-Hendricks urged students to be vigilant.

“We are taking it very seriously… When I addressed my students I spoke to them about it. So far I have sensitised all my staff members about this video. I have taken it a little further. I have written to the parents giving them some suggestions as to how we can work together to keep our ladies safe, and so we continue to monitor [and] sensitise our students to be vigilant,” she said.

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