The Freeport News continues its series, Part III, of ‘Sex and Drugs in the schools’ with Technical Cadet Corps Programme, Assistant Director, Bishop Joseph Hall; Magistrate Rengin Johnson and Principal of Genesis Academy, Ricardo Miller.
“There is no school that is perfect or without incidents,” said Technical Cadet Corps Programme, Assistant Director, Bishop Joseph Hall.
“There is a lot of bureaucracy when it’s time for the truth to come forth, because everyone wants to sweep these things under the rug and act as if these things are not happening, because they want to have a ‘perfect school,’” stated Bishop Hall, during his candid conversation with this daily yesterday – Tuesday, May 7.
Hall, a former Guidance Counselor for many years, reported promiscuity being at its highest peak in school history.
He noted that sex and drugs are happening in the schools, but it continues to be ‘unmentionable.’
“These unusual behaviors tha tare taking place within our schools indeed emulates from the home. We are not looking for anyone to agree with us, but what we are looking for is for people to have knowledge of what is taking place.”
In 2009 when working in the schools, Hall said, early in the morning parents would drop their kids off to school, to a safe environment, not knowing the thoughts in their minds.
“One day lecturing in a classroom there was a burst of laughter and I knew at the time I didn’t make a joke. There were four girls and two boys, amidst a class of 24. When I beckoned to a young lady to bring her phone to me, she used her pinky finger to move what she was looking at and when I got the phone I went back to what she was looking at.
“To my surprise, these kids were watching porn. These were 10th graders, and my question was what were they doing with a phone and where they got it from,” Hall recalled.
“When the question was asked the student’s response was, that their parents gave them the phone to make calls when school is out for them to be picked up. That is reasonable, but the educational system says you are not to have these things in the classroom while class is going on.
“Parents are responsible for the actions of most of these kids,”
Recalling another incident, Hall said that a teacher from another school was able to look down at the school across from them and saw two students in misconduct. “The teacher beckoned to me and I was able to walk in on them. Some of the areas where these kids are carrying out their indecent behavior is in the back of the school, where they feel like nobody is watching or nobody can see.
“These are facts, these are realities and these students would find areas where they can hide or they think is protected,” he added.
“There was another situation where a janitress was outside the bathroom and the students maybe thought she was senile and only could clean toilets; but there was a young girl and young man in the stall. The sad thing about it, these kids are so promiscuous … they also have people looking out for them.”
Hall shared one particular incident, which he described as the most shocking case he encountered and made him realize, “Sex is rampant in the schools.”
He maintained that not only is sex happening with boys and girls in the schools, but same sex relations are also happening today. “Even in schools with children that are mentally challenged, the girls are running after the boys for sex and they are turning them down.
“People play like they don’t know and they would say to you, where did you get information from or how would I know about these things happening; but I am in the position to know.
“All of these things I am telling you about, Social Service is aware, the police is aware and they are working feverishly, but how can you clamp down on these things without the parents?” Hall questioned.
“The parents must speak to these girls; the fathers must speak to the boys and caution them as to what is going on.”
Hall maintained that he has had conversations with youngsters, who have just entered their teens disclosing that they are “tired of having sex.” Their bodies have not even developed yet. As a man of God, as a father and one who cares for kids, I am very, very concerned where we are at now.
“Folks need to be real in this hour and come forth letting people know this thing is prevalent in the school today. We must work as parents, guardians, educators to help combat this behavior of sexuality.
“The key thing to do is pool our resources together and educate our young boys and young girls. You can teach students a lot of things and say a lot of things, but some folks are hell bent on doing what they want and these challenges are growing by leaps and bounds.”
The former Guidance Counselor expressed that some of the school activities are a tunnel used by the kids to engage in misconduct.
“When you’re talking about having dances in the schools or senior week, who are the chaperones? In some of these instances, the people who are chaperoning these activities are some people who are preying on these kids,” Hall maintained.
Speaking to the craftiness of students, Hall recalled during his time as Guidance Counselor, the boys would hang their shirts on the trees and smoke to say that the smell would not go on their clothes. “They would come back to the classrooms with their mouth full of mints and think nothing of it.
“In the homes,” Hall continued, “these parents don’t check the young boys’ bags anymore and even the young girls. Around last year sometime, I had a young man who was caught smoking and I knew something was wrong, because he called me ‘Dred.’ We called the police at the school.”
Hall explained he is not suggesting to hurdle the boys off to prison because of drugs, but the educational system has to take another approach when they suspend students and what they do with them, because it can make matters worse.
“When you suspend a child, his mother is at work, his dad is at work and he is home with his phone, television and drugs. It doesn’t help.
“We need a facility in Grand Bahama that will deal with these young boys, because we are losing our young men.
“We have these sex and drug incidents for light stuff, but this is what we are producing and at the end of the day, the country would be a wreck if we don’t put a stop to this now and pay attention,” Hall stated.
He reiterated that it all starts in the home “… then schools, then it gets into our communities and all of this develops into a big brawl, then we start to blame each other.
“We need to work together as a unit. It’s not about pointing fingers and downing anybody, because today it may be my son and tomorrow it can be your daughter,” he concluded.
Johnson, former Deputy Chief Magistrate, confirmed that juvenile matters have increased. However, the emotional magistrate shared, students need love and attention.
“We should have more security officers at the schools until the last child leaves, they should be in the compound and there should be more presence of the teachers until the children leave the compound as well.
“Are we sitting in a position where we are doing our mandated duty for the betterment of our school. Do we want to make a difference where we are on the right road to serving our students and our nation, because that should be a very important question to those sitting as a principal and as teacher,” Johnson said.
“Schools should not only have teachers and principals that have education, but they should also have the attitude and desire to be there and not to just collect a salary, but to become a parent.
“I think I understand who comes before me as children. They are only the products of their society. Nobody is born bad, it is because of poor parenting or no parenting and abandonment, that we have children who are very angry, who are very lost in the wilderness and there are not sufficient resources by the Social Services Department of rehab to take care of them.
“Where these kids are coming from, there is no parents” she maintained.
“Whoever works with children should have love and care for the children and understand the Child Protection Act as the rights of the child,” she suggested.
“Children need structure that gives them the feeling that they are special. Yes, I am in court and I deal with children, but I try my best not to punish them. I try my best to give them the respect of hearing what they did, why they did it and how we can reform them so they don’t live that way.
“The students (seemingly) don’t have parental guidance and they are looking for the teachers to be the parents. Some of them come with no shoes, no uniform, because they were brought into a family who cannot afford to take care of them. The mother is a child herself, along with her father and they can’t take care of themselves.
“And if Social Services have not become aware of it or don’t have the resource to deal with it then that child from the time it’s born experiences abuse, including physical harm, starving, never seeing a day at the school because he or she is babysitting other children and learning by the environment of society, to sell herself for $5 lunch or minutes on her cellphone and males are doing the same.
With so many acts of substance abuse, Johnson disclosed that she approached the Minister of Education in the previous government to form a rehab system in all of the high schools. However, she added, they were not afforded the opportunity.
“We need to not punish by beating, but we need to say you have a problem, let’s sit down and talk. Between the church, court, school and society, we can save our young people.”
Johnson is of the belief that no administration on this island, is not aware of these challenges in the schools. “Get away from your desk, get off your chair and do something.
“Go and ask the Ministry of Education to get cameras (in the schools) and watch every single class.
“These students in the school need more monitoring, maybe they need to bring special dogs into the schools to sniff for drugs,” she suggested. “They also have to ask the Social Service Department to assist and if need be, ask the courts to assist.
“You have to work as a team,” declared Johnson.
“There is a big cry that marijuana should be made lawful for prescription and I have no problem with that, but I have a problem with the marijuana that they sell on the streets mixed with so much garbage that the boys and girls that I have seen … it effects them mentally.
“I do not think marijuana should be legal unless you are prescribed to use it. Silence in itself is also approval. So, we have to do something as adults to get our children back.
“I suggest a Council of Control and Treatment for any kind of ill practices like taking drugs, having sex and selling for sex … not bad abuse, not beating up and not bad punishment that doesn’t really teach them anything, but make them angrier and more violent.
“We need to raise our values, Christian standard. We can make a change to win our students; becoming a nation that is united to solve our problems, by coming together to solve childhood pregnancy, drugs and selling of sex.
“If the principals or teachers are not suitable or do not have the right personality or character to work with these challenges, they have to be replaced. We have to evaluate these administrations to see who is suitable to exercise good will,” stated Magistrate Johnson.
Major, who is the longest serving principal at Genesis Academy also known as ‘Programme Sure,’ uses his Christian values to prevent and decrease the issues of his students partaking in drugs and sex.
“We are a school that the Ministry of Education established for over 25 years to work with our students who are more challenged in the mainstream.
“Whatever challenges schools are having with them, they would send them to us to see if we can do some intervention on a smaller setting, then getting them back into mainstream.
“I am a believer, here at Genesis Academy, that these things we want to accomplish cannot be accomplished if we don’t seek wisdom from God,” said Major.
“When we talk about substance use of drugs, I remember when we started with the hookah and it took the ministry one or two years before they cracked down on it.
“There’s the bidi, the Black N’ Mild, the marijuana and even though some of them are legal per se, they give you a buzz. Any substance that you take into your body and gives you a buzz will affect the way you are thinking, the way you process things and that becomes a challenge for these students,” the principal pointed out.
“I discovered that once you have tried the drugs, you are not going to stop on your own. From either the bidi, Black N’ Mild, which I think gives more of a buzz, then you move on to marijuana. We have all heard of these drugs students use in school.
“Some of the challenges the schools face when it comes to behavior, the root cause of that is substance abuse,” he maintained.
“As it relates to sexual misconduct that ranges from touching, the students were found somewhere secluded or actual intercourse taking place in school. But when we talk about it and when we look at the wide scale of this, not because other students are not caught having sex in school means they are not doing it.
“We have so much kids involved sexually and this is based on their behavior, and so many things that is going on. You hear the talks of lesbianism and people are taking it lightly that this is something we don’t address or we don’t take it seriously.
“Yes, we ignore things like this or we wait till it escalates into something, but we are not doing as much intervention as we should or could,” said Major.
“When we look at the sizes of our schools that have two or three counselors and a few administrators to manage the large number of students. When you divide that up …”
He continued, “Nobody seems to be noticing or there is nobody specifically identifying these students with challenges and checking up on them.
“I think there needs to be a strategy” added Major.
“If I have four boys and I suspect them of using a foreign substance or whatever it is, let’s put someone on them to monitor them as it relates to them coming to school on time. But sometimes I don’t know if we have enough administrators in the school to be able to properly monitor and because of that we do have a number of students falling through the cracks.
“The students that we find using substances, we would tell them try not to and this may sound a bit contradicting, but this is the best we can do because you don’t expect them to change overnight; but you would say to them, try not to smoke on the days you’re going to school,” he added.
Major admitted that despite the disappointing trials, his obligation to the students is to become a haven.
“My assistance in helping these kids is helping them to organize their lives. I ask them what it is that they want to accomplish and so, we spend the first half hour in devotion time and that is the time for me to act because some of the moods some of the children are in, because of the drug use or various things, some kids are not fit to go in a class.”