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Dear Editor: Stop stigmatising single-parent families and consider deeper causes of school violence

“[…] Is it that two pandemic years at home have left some of our school children confused and unable to distinguish between video games and real life?  Is it that the violence-filled ‘entertainment’, often the only type of entertainment they are exposed to in our cinemas and elsewhere, has dulled their senses?

“And what about our own behaviour as adults? […] So much air time is given to the ‘Or Else’ folks. Gie we wah we want or else… In far too many cases, these are leading voices in the community who project violence in their tone, seemingly unaware of the example they’re setting…”

The following Letter to the Editor, which discusses both possible causes and solutions to the problem of violence in schools, was submitted to Wired868 by Marylin Jones of St James:

Photo: Two female students fight in school during the current school term.

I’ve seen some videos.  The beatings are brutal and I’m flabbergasted.

A child is pushed to the ground, made helpless and you see not one, not two but several children taking turns punching and kicking the defenceless victim.  It’s a scene played over and over on our newscasts these past few weeks.  Not surprisingly, there’s a visceral reaction from within the community but of equal concern is the response from some who should know better—it is a response calling for violence in kind towards the perpetrators of these heinous acts.

It’s coming from some whose comments are not without a hint of animus.

There’s something else I’ve seen in the videos. A few brave youths attempting to intervene, albeit to no avail, as they are overwhelmed by the violent mob. Or a lone voice calling for the violence to cease. Often but not always, it’s a girl’s voice. Therein lies some hope in this otherwise disastrous scenario.

But it is the brutality, the rage that stands out.

Where is all this rage coming from? Is there something specific in our society that’s fuelling this anger?

Photo: Two schoolboys fight in Adelaide, Australia.

Citizens are naturally horrified and knee-jerk reactions abound. There’s talk about children from single-parent homes and lots of views about ‘those’ people who won’t train their children well…

Mind you, many of these folks are better at pointing fingers than at working to find solutions that won’t contribute further to the lack of self-worth among our troubled youth.

It’s easy to understand the knee-jerk reactions to the violence but we need to be thoughtful as well. Should these acts of violence be condemned? Absolutely.

Should the perpetrators be punished? Of course. To the fullest extent of the law.

These young people must learn that actions have consequences.

But we will be doing ourselves a disservice as a country if we don’t go beyond the ‘hang dem high in a public square’ solutions. And for heaven’s sake, let’s stop putting blame on single-parent families. The world is full of mass shooters and psychopaths who come from two-parent homes.

Photo: A primary school fight in Kuwait left one boy with a dislocated shoulder.
(via Kuwait Times)

Shouldn’t we be asking why the promise of a future is so meaningless to these violent youths? What makes a segment of our society turn beastly, lacking empathy, lacking compassion?

Is it that two pandemic years at home have left some of our school children confused and unable to distinguish between video games and real life?  Is it that the violence-filled ‘entertainment’, often the only type of entertainment they are exposed to in our cinemas and elsewhere, has dulled their senses?

And what about our own behaviour as adults? How much of the bad behaviour may be influenced by examples set by adults in our society?  What about overly hostile parliamentarians, political aspirants and other prominent voices in the community, people who shout and threaten rather than make their case through reasoned arguments?

So much air time is given to the ‘Or Else’ folks. Gie we wah we want or else… In far too many cases, these are leading voices in the community who project violence in their tone, seemingly unaware of the example they’re setting.

Photo: Then Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Terry Fenwick (right) leans aggressively towards TTFA press officer Shaun Fuentes during a public altercation at a press briefing on 17 March 2021.

This is a time for introspection.  To what extent are the youths emulating behaviour patterns copied from the actions of persons who should know better? Could it be that we have failed them to such a degree that they value nothing, not even life, not even their own, not even themselves? Life can be meaningless when you feel you are not seen, when you can claim nothing as yours.

When I started this letter, one young man was fighting for his life after the most recent incidence of after-school violence. Before I reached the end, there were reports that he might not make it.

Young people who failed to see that they have a stake in the future now face a future involving life in prison.

The problem is not theirs alone. As a society with so much promise, it’s our problem as well. Collectively. This situation calls for more than old talk about values. Those of us who care must, by example, do everything in our power to make all our youth feel worthy.

The least we can do is make an effort to restore a sense of self-worth among our lost youth. I’m sure that those who care can think of numerous ways to do this.

Photo: Then Malick Secondary captain Krystean Morris (second from right) is mobbed by supporters after his team’s 2-0 win over Speyside High in Big 5 competition at Serpentine Road on 30 October 2018.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/ CA-Images/ Wired868)

Our society needs a healing. There’s work to be done.

I’m in. Are you?

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Letters to the Editor
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