Teens death sparks additional school security measures

Basseterre, St. Kitts – Following the disappearance and subsequent death of Basseterre High School student Leanna Napoleon, the Ministry of Education is now implementing additional security measures in schools to ensure the incident is not repeated.

Speaking on radio last week, William Vincent Hodge, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, said the ministry is trying to engage the services of three professionally trained police officers to work with secondary school students. He added that the officers will be referred to as “resource officers” and will work with a programme called TAPS.

Hodge, however, noted that he could not get too detailed into the information as the ministry is still in the discussion phase of the project.

“It is a way of being proactive in terms of helping our schools to be safer places,” Hodge said. “These officers have training in dealing with young people and we are hoping that through their services some of the safety anxieties that parents have…would be reduced.”

The education official stated that currently there are security guards at each school doing regular searches using a scanner to help detect any metal instruments that might be brought onto the premises. He also said their are other measures that have been implemented since the death of Napoleon.

“We saw the need to educate children and young people about their safety, especially within the last couple of weeks when one of our students from the BHS unfortunately disappeared and subsequently her mortal remains were found,” he said. “That created a new sense of purpose for us within the ministry of education that we have to call on all adults in the country to be conscious of [safey].”

He noted that parents have an important role to play in assisting children in monitoring their own safety.

“We are expecting parents to play a very important role and begin to sensitize their children to get them to become more aware they have to be somewhat responsible for their own safety,” he said. He added these type of incidents happening to young people should cause the public to be outraged

“Every Kittitian and Nevisian should be outrage over the tragic death of Leanna Napoleon,” he said. “In a way, safety has taken on somewhat of a different look in the ministry

Chief Education Officer Dr. Tricia Esdaile also spoke about how the ministry of education looks at school safety in a holistic fashion.

“So, while there is that component of school safety that would address matters of violence, there are issues of safety that speak to the physical part,” she said. “[We have to look at] infrastructure as well as training and resources we provide to schools.”

She disclosed that currently the ministry is in partnerships with NEMA, USAID and the fire and police departments to develop a comprehensive programme for school safety in St Kitts and Nevis.

“Earlier this year, we would have had a training for teachers and they would have been exposed to method on how to develop school safety programs, development of school evacuation plans, how to perform and execute drills,” she said. She further indicated that they are looking to do more training this coming school year in addition to drilling safety and evacuation safety plans.

“We would also be looking at things such as basic first aid,” she said. “All of this comes together to help part of the larger national program of developing a national school safety policy [that] guides to how schools function and execute [these plans and policies].”