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School security high on teachers’ union agenda

PORT OF SPAIN — T&T schools are unprepared for an attack on their children such as the one that took place in Connecticut, USA last week.

So said TTUTA’s first vice-president Davanand Sinanan in a telephone interview with the T&T Guardian.

He was speaking in response to the horrific tragedy in which 20-year-old gunman Adam Lanza went on a shooting rampage and killed 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14.

“We have been expressing serious concerns about the issue of adequate school security arrangements for the nation’s schools, not just to this current minister of education, but also to his predecessors,” the union official said.

“We are of the firm opinion that the ministry is certainly not getting value for money in the quality as well as quantity of the security personnel and many schools are not adequately secured,” he said.

Security providers’ challenges include:

* remuneration;

* breached fences;

* inadequate manpower, with only one or two guards for an entire school, often stretched thin when deployed to another school in emergencies;

* primary schools very often had one lone female security guard with a baton;

* only precepted officers can make arrests; and

* lack of communication equipment in security booths to contact police.

Sinanan said the possibility of a gunman entering a local school and wreaking havoc like the Newtown incident was a very real threat. He said the phenomenon of school gun violence was not new to T&T and schools were not insulated from it. He mentioned the shooting death at the International School of Westmoorings, in 2002, when Phillip Seerattan stole his father’s 9mm pistol from his father’s car, shot the school security guard, William Ramnarine, and held a 14-year-old boy hostage.

Seerattan was killed in an exchange of gunfire with the police. Sinanan said TTUTA’s school security concerns were not a kneejerk response to the Connecticut school-shooting massacre, but had been ongoing for a “long time”. (Guardian)

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