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Saturday, July 20, 2024


St. Croix Educational Complex students went to school on Monday but it wasn’t for classes, it was to protest.
The high school students, supported by a few teachers, were protesting, among other things, the lack of school nurses, trained campus monitors and security, the need for cleaner facilities, and dress code issues. The issue of security was one of the main reasons for the protest, following an altercation between a student and an adult monitor last week.
"We want to be heard by the public and the administration," said one student leader Monday morning. "We know what we want and what we need. We can’t learn in a school that’s not properly protected."
Educational Complex Principal Kurt Vialet met with student leaders on Friday to discuss their complaints, two of which he agreed with, he said: the nurse shortage and the need for more training for campus monitors.
Vialet said monitors have undergone training to deal with aggressive behavior. But that did not apparently help avert last week's clash between a male student and a monitor. The matter is being investigated by Public Safety, he said.
"We share their (students’) concern of students being hurt on campus," Vialet said. "I apologize to all parties."
Educational Complex teacher Terrence Nelson supports the students. He said the monitor who was involved in the altercation, George Armstrong, should be fired.
"Mr. Armstrong is a menace to this school," Nelson said. "He’s got to go."
Nelson, who has taught at the school since it opened four years ago, didn’t mince words when it came to his boss, Vialet.
"This didn’t just happen today or last week," he said. "Vialet’s attitude dealing with the children is ridiculous. This is not gang territory. It’s a place of learning."
As for the nursing issue, Education Department officials have said that until two nursing positions can be filled, the registered nurses who teach in the school’s nursing program will assist in emergency situations. Low pay is the reason cited for not filling the positions, which require a registered nurse.
Students also complained that after the school’s short-staffed custodial crew cleans restrooms, they are often locked for a period of time. Vialet said that was because some students then go in and paint the walls with graffiti and stick wet paper towels on the ceilings.
Vialet conceded there is a shortage of custodians, but said students had to do their part in keeping the campus clean.
Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste, chairman of the Senate’s Education Committee, said a meeting between students, Education Department superintendents, school administrators, parents and teachers will be held later this week.
"I hope such a meeting will allow us to put our heads together . . . to find a resolution," he said.
Vialet, meanwhile, was to meet with the parents of students Monday evening to discuss the protest. He also said he will tell parents they should urge their kids to attend classes on Tuesday.
"I encourage parents to talk to their children," he said. "We lost an entire day of instructional time. It’s time to move on."

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