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Wednesday, October 5, 2022


There was a surprising lack of parents, teachers and administrators at Tuesday night's public hearing on school violence, said one woman who testified.
Carmencita Dorsett, the president of the Dober School PTA who worked as a teacher for 14 years, made it clear that she was speaking "as a parent."
Dorsett said an incident that occurred with a fifth grader caused her to quit working as a teacher.
The school system should pattern itself "more like Head Start," she said. "Head Start goes into the home."
Sen. Norman Jn. Baptiste, chair of the Education Committee, promised that the hearing, called to discuss violence on school campuses, would not be another "exercise in futility."
He said an action plan would be developed with input from government, civic organizations, parents, students, schools and the courts.
The meeting went on into the late hours of Tuesday, while one witness after another made recommendations.
Among them:
—- Installing security booths.
—- Acquiring hand-held metal detectors.
—- Implementing unannounced "shakedowns."
—- Doing away with middle and junior high schools.
— Requiring conflict resolution classes.
—- Legislating zero-tolerance policies in schools.
— Holding parents responsible for their children's actions.
Jeanette Smith, principal of Charlotte Amalie High School, said there were currently two conflict-resolution classes at CAHS, which, she said, were not enough to handle all of the school's 1,900 students.
"I wish we had the transcripts of other meetings held," she said, asserting that this was the "fourth, fifth, sixth time we are rehashing the same thing. We need to spend more time discussing what needs to be done." Smith said the answer was more funding and training.
Sinclair Wilkinson, principal of Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, said that although violence occurs on high school campuses, the problems start much earlier, at the elementary and junior high school level.
Wilkinson cited lack of parental discipline as part of the problem, saying, "Spare the rod, spoil the child."
Acting Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds said one way to deal with violent students was "Don't let them continue in school," but speculated it was probably "unconstitutional." Simmonds suggested it might be time to test the law by removing some of the serious troublemakers from the schools.
She also took the opportunity to criticize newspapers, saying rather than cover acts of violence, the "front pages" should put the spotlight on all the positive things that go on in public schools. She cited the students from Charlotte Amalie High School who won last week's Moot Court competition as an example.
Simmonds also advocated greater autonomy for the school district.
Glen Smith, president of the St. Thomas-St. John American Federation of Teachers, suggested a territory code of conduct for students. He also said there should be more men in elementary education, and said smaller classes and higher pay for teachers would help to attract them.
Keith Richards, chairman of the Board of Education, agreed with Simmonds that Education should be given greater autonomy and that the entire system needed restructuring.

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