Cell phone policy in schools under review, bad viral -Barbados
The Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training is reviewing its policy on cell phone use in schools as several highly-inappropriate videos involving secondary school students went viral in recent days.
Chief Education Officer Dr Ramona Archer-Bradshaw revealed that one video in particular capturing students using an electronic cigarette, also known as vaping, is a particularly serious infraction that could result in weighty punishment followed by counselling.
“This activity will not be condoned in any school and the principals will do the necessary things to ensure that any breach such as this will be dealt with accordingly. And of course, they will have the support of the ministry with regard to that,” Dr Archer-Bradshaw told reporters while at the Coleridge and Parry School in St Peter.
Since the resumption of face-to-face classes, scores of students have been documenting their experiences on the popular social media app Tiktok. While some of the videos appear harmless, others show students behaving “inappropriate”.
One video captured students dressed in the uniform of The Lodge school using an electronic cigarette, while another shows students in Springer Memorial Secondary School uniforms engaging in a sexually suggestive dance better known as ‘twerking’.
She explained that a raft of disciplinary options is on the table, including suspension, but that counselling services would also be explored depending on the type of infraction.
“If it is a situation like the one now with students vaping and so on, we will have to get counselling for those children. There are certain levels for dealing with disciplinary problems – level one, level two infractions. You can have suspension occurring, you can call in the National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA) and have them talk with the children, you can have various counselling interventions and you can give them community service within the schools,” said Dr Archer-Bradshaw.
“There are a number of things that can happen to help these children get back on the right track and I think inherently, the children are good children. It is just sometimes they try to push the boundaries to see how far they can go, but as long as we say ‘these are the rules, these are the standards, these are the consequences of not following the standards’, they understand that and they will operate to suit.
“The school is a microcosm of society and some of the things that you see happening in society, you will see happening within our schools,” she added.
In September 2017, then Minister of Education Ronald Jones allowed cell phones back into the classrooms. After previously banning the devices, Jones acknowledged that he had made a mistake given the synergy between technology and education.
But numerous stakeholders in the education system said they were uncertain whether a definitive policy currently exists.
“A review of the cell phone policy is on the cards,” declared Dr Archer-Bradshaw. “It is something that we will look at to see the pros and the cons of having cellphones in schools and if we have them in schools, how best we can manage the use of these phones.
In a statement, the National Council of Substance Abuse (NCSA) called for a more coordinated national approach to the demand and supply of drugs, particularly minors who are prohibited by law from using such substances.
“We at the NCSA continue to call on parents and guardians to monitor their children’s activities, to encourage them not be pressured by their peers. We also know that we must continue to educate our publics on this and other emerging trends, to identify gaps in the delivery of services, especially to our minors and equip adults to better respond to these challenges,” said the NCSA statement.
She added that no major complaints about deviant behaviour had been reported since the resumption of face-to-face classes two weeks ago.
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