Amid infrastructure and administrative changes at the territory’s schools, officials are planning a disciplinary crackdown at a time when “extreme misconduct” is on the rise, Education, Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Sharie de Castro said on Feb. 10 in the House of Assembly.

“I can regrettably confirm that some of our students are threatening the lives of their peers, teachers, administrators and security officers and are threatening to destroy school property,” Ms. de Castro said. “Additionally, our schools have found students in possession of marijuana and marijuana products as well as e-cigarettes and alcohol. Brass knuckles with knives attached are being confiscated from students far too frequently. Schools have also reported a significant issue with students bringing oversized splat-ball or pellet guns and using them to shoot at others after school.”

Efforts have been made to address the misbehaviour, including having parents and students sign a behaviour contract outlined in the student code of conduct and discipline policy, according to the minister. A high school also took measures including added work duty, in-school suspension, counselling, internal and external mentors, and detention, she added.

“While some of those students have earnestly tried to improve their behaviour, the same is not true for others,” Ms. de Castro said.

She said although the most drastic situations are perpetuated by a small number of students, administrators are reaching their limits, and change is needed.

Zero tolerance

Ms. de Castro said this means a widespread crackdown.

“The Ministry of Education stands squarely with all our schools in declaring an absolute zero tolerance approach with regard to the perpetuation of behaviours of extreme misconduct such as those mentioned above,” she said. “This means that students who are caught with drugs or drug paraphernalia, edibles, alcohol, knives or toy guns — and students who engage in gang fights or threaten teachers or other staff — will face the requisite consequences as this type of behaviour cannot be allowed to continue.”

She said the ministry is working closely with the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force to assist with investigations of serious infractions and increase patrols. The Department of Youth Affairs and Sports is also working to provide support to students who need it.

Ms. de Castro also encouraged parents to meaningfully engage with their children to help them understand the consequences of their actions.