I have the honor to present at a national conference on school violence in Trinidad this March. The conference is being held in response to incidents of school violence in the small Caribbean nation. In newspaper covers and television news stories provided by my client for background on the topic, I noted repeated references to an “epidemic” of school violence and headlines regarding gang activity in schools. While the news stories detail recent school homicides, the focus of the reporting appears to center on a large number of very serious fights among groups of students as well as increasing gang activity in schools. A number of these incidents involve groups of students who gang up and beat individual students severely. There has been at least one similar type of attack on a school teacher. Viral videos of these types of attacks have become increasingly more graphic, popular and apparently more frequent.
High Homicide Rate affects School Violence
With a per capita murder rate of 28.3 per hundred residents, Trinidad has been experiencing a stout homicide rate in recent years. Criminal gangs have often had no difficulty in obtaining semi-automatic and even fully automatic weapons. Special police units equipped with heavy body armor and sub-machine guns patrol high crime areas and have had numerous gunfights with gang members. It should not be surprising that school violence would be an issue in schools serving these communities. For contrast, the U.S. homicide rate typically runs between three and four victims per hundred thousand.
Contrast with schools in the U.S.
Most of the topics of interest to attendees parallel issues with school violence in the United States. I will be addressing areas such as preventing school weapons assaults, effective school resource officer programs, student threat evaluation, techniques to prevent fights in schools, bullying prevention, student supervision practices, and effective emergency preparedness measures for school violence. I have found past engagements in other countries to be an excellent learning opportunity. Our analysts have learned valuable lessons working in Canada, Mexico, Honduras, Rwanda, Bolivia, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, France, Switzerland, Vietnam, the U.K., and other countries. I am sure this experience will be no exception.
Travel, learn and share
I look forward to my visit to Trinidad and will post another blog to share what I learn during the trip. When I was originally invited to present for the conference, I had to decline due to a previously scheduled trip to Argentina the same week. I was very disappointed that I would not be able to present because my schedule was in conflict. The conference organizers were willing to move the conference date so I could present. I am grateful for their efforts to accommodate my schedule and will do my best to make their efforts worthwhile. I also look forward to the challenges of trying to come up with success strategies to help make schools in Trinidad safer. Every time we have the opportunity to work in another region of the world, we learn and gain a new perspective. I feel truly blessed to have this opportunity to learn and to share a different perspective on school violence.