Panel Debates Arming Monitors with Metal Batons

Assistant Education Commissioner Marie Encarnacion tells senators that metal batons send the wrong message to students. (Photo by Barry Leerdam, V.I. Legislature)
Assistant Education Commissioner Marie Encarnacion tells senators that metal batons send the wrong message to students. (Photo by Barry Leerdam, V.I. Legislature)

Whether to prohibit school monitors from carrying metal batons became a topic of debate Monday, questioning if meeting violence with violence was appropriate in the territory schools.

At a hearing of the Senate’s Committee on Education and Workforce Development, officials from the department spoke in favor of the ban while representatives from the V.I. Police Department wanted school monitors to have the weapons.

Senators discussing the bill appeared evenly divided on it, which was reflected in the fact that the bill was held in committee.

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Proposed by Sen. Dwayne DeGraff, the bill would prohibit monitors from carrying metal batons but would allow them to carry rubber batons.

“Metal batons have a tendency to destroy what they hit,” DeGraff said. “They break bones.”

Marie Encarnacion, assistant commissioner of education, said arming the monitors would be sending the wrong message, “a terrible message,” to students.

However, David Cannorier, St. John’s assistant police chief, thought armed monitors would send the right message to students. He said students seeing a monitor with a weapon would think again before doing something they should not do.

Encarnacion said that how to use a baton effectively and safely was not always part of a monitor’s training. She said a survey of the territory’s school monitors showed about half wanted to carry a baton, and half said it was not necessary.

Sen. Kurt Vialet, a former school principal, said he did not want the monitors to use the batons against students, but they should carry them in case they need to use them against a violent intruder on school property.

Attending the hearing were committee members Sens. Donna Frett-Gregory, Janelle Sarauw, Vialet, Stedmann Hodge Jr. and Allison DeGazon and non-committee member- Sen. Dwayne M. DeGraff.

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