Saint Lucia
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After School Fights: A Menace to our Local Education System

Sylvestre Phillip M.B.E
By Sylvestre Phillip M.B.E

 SCHOOL Reopened on Monday, September 4, 2023, for the academic year 2023 to 2024. And after school fights which prevailed during the last academic year, still continue on our streets.

Indeed, after school fights have been going on in our nation for as long as the existence of schools. Students fought after school for all sorts of reasons.

Fortunately, in St. Lucia, students and adults on the scene of the fights try their very best to break-up or stop the fight.

However, in the United States of America where I have lived, students and adults do not make any attempts to break-up or stop students from fighting. They simple stand and watch.

Now I don’t know enough about the US laws as they relate to education to explain the reasons why people just stand and watch the fights instead of trying to intervene and stop the fight.

In the United States situation, I am aware that parents continue to express concern about videotaping of fights among students. In fact, it is illegal to videotape fights in some states in America.

One of the main reasons for this illegality, is that the tape could be used as evidence by the school authorities or anyone, for that matter, in a court of law. Indeed, schools punish students for videotaping after school

fights. The mode of punishment differs from school to school in the United States. The punishment could be out-of-school suspension or in-school suspension. The out of school suspension means that the student would be out of school for a period of time, while the in-school suspension would allow students to attend school but report to special class set up for that purpose, and not his or her usual classroom.

In St. Lucia, it is common practice for students to videotape after school fights and then post that video on social media. I have not had the chance to look up the local laws relating to this matter.

But the Minister of Education, Hon. Shawn Edward, is very concerned about the rampant videotaping of school fights and posting the video on social media. With every good reason!

I expect that the Ministry of Education would take the steps necessary to stop this practice.

When I took up the Principalship of the Roseau Combined School, more than three decades ago, a fight broke out almost daily on the student’s way home. Sometimes just outside the school premises.

I dealt with it thoroughly and systematically. I addressed the problem at my school assembly. I called in the parents of the students who were involved in the fight together with the offenders for some counselling. Fortunately, I had done a course in counselling when I pursued a programme in Adult Education at the St. Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies. And that seemed to have been working for me. I helped the students to resolve conflicts peacefully. And they seemed to have been understanding my language and the message therein.

Indeed, I often addressed the problem at the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meetings held on a termly basis,

Now many of the parents of students attending the Roseau Combined School were usually on the banana plantation doing a day’s work. So, I did not send the students  home on out-of-school suspension. And you know, a bigger problem could develop with students at home and their parents are at work. Therefore, I administered in-school suspension.

The students had to report to school but were required to report to the Special Education teacher who had just a few special students. And they were required to do school work while they were there.

The truth is that the students who were on in-school suspension did not like to report to the special education teacher because they thought that it was demeaning for them. When they returned to their usual classroom, their behaviour began to improve for the better. Before I retired, an after-school fight was something of the distant past.

I often have to refer to my experiences in the United States of America. Two 13-year-old students fought in a school hall and they were charged. Indeed, the laws in the United States of America may be a lot different to that in St. Lucia.

Now why do children fight in school or after school?

Indeed, fights between students can be verbal or physical, and they can occur during the day on school property, or after school. Some common reasons for school fights are as follows:

Different backgrounds. Many school fights are caused by forced mixing of students who come from different backgrounds and hold certain values.

Lack of respect. School violence could be a simple lack of respect for others. It is important therefore that students be taught character education or learning in an attempt to provide students who lack good role models. This would enable them to interact better with their peers and teachers.

Cultural Influence. Some students engage in fights merely to replicate what they see on television and movies. And I am sure to know of the deep social influence of television and movies beamed from the far-away lands.

Now very quickly, how can schools help students to avoid fights?

Indeed, there a quite a few things that can be done. However, space does not allow me to identify many of them here.

Problem solving tactics or conflict resolution should be taught by trained classroom teachers.

Violence prevention training is also essential for school staff to learn and enforce.

Classroom teachers should stimulate students through a conducive learning environment such as cooperative learning.