Principal of the Government Industrial School, Erwin Leacock believes that challenging behaviour exhibited within secondary schools across Barbados is not being properly managed.

He expressed this view today during the opening ceremony of a High Risk Student symposium at the Hilton Barbados, charging that: ???We have used very harsh methods, and we [have] also used our ultimate weapon ??? dismissal. That doesn???t help the situation.???

Mr. Leacock stated that in most instances, the small group of young people who presented the challenges was generally misunderstood. He also expressed concerns over what he described as an emerging issue in secondary schools where the profiles of students sent to the St. Philip institution had changed, with offences now being more criminally oriented.

???The age associated with some of these offences is also worrying. We can appreciate some of the challenges the schools will be experiencing within the school system, and we appreciate that what is happening is reflective of what is going on in the Barbadian society??? [But], we have to work together now in a more concerted way to address some of these issues,??? he stated.

However, the Principal pointed out that schools were ???a little handicapped by a lack of support systems and lack of infrastructure???. He said that institutions were not tailored to suit some of the needs of the offenders.

He explained that factors responsible for the behaviour exhibited by some of the youth included substance abuse, or children going through some ???horrific experiences??? from within the home, and not possessing the requisite coping skills to deal with some extremely serious issues.
???In a lot of instances what people see in the school system is not the real child but a child under the influence [of a substance]??? Some decisions they make lead them to come into contact with the justice system,??? he said.

However, Mr. Leacock urged the stakeholders including representatives from the Royal Barbados Police Force, the National Council on Substance Abuse, the Juvenile Liaison Scheme, secondary school principals and representatives from the Ministry of Education, that there needed to be a comprehensive approach in dealing with the issue.

He further encouraged those present not to run away from the problem, but to stay and deal with the issue. ???If you are not trying to engage the young people now they will come back at us in much more dangerous terms,??? he warned.

However, the GIS head maintained that today???s youth was not a lost generation, but one which needed more patience and understanding from those around them. ???It also tells us we as a society need to engage these children more ???Right now we are only skimming the surface. We need to take a serious look at engaging the children,??? he said.

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