Rivers lobbying colleagues for troubled kids

| 12/04/2014

(CNS): The education minister is lobbying her own political colleagues in Cabinet to do something about the current gap in the system when it comes to troubled kids. Speaking about violence and behaviour problems at local schools Tara Rivers told the Legislative Assembly Thursday that there were discussions, committees, strategies, programmes, activities, wraparound policies, partnerships and action plans in place but pointed out that inthe end there are a number of students with behaviour and mental health issues that are beyond the scope of her ministry. Calling for urgent action she said secure therapeutic accommodation was desperately needed.

In her statement, which comes in the wake of various reports of serious violence and discipline problems in the government high schools, Rivers said a small number of students were having a particularly negative impact. Listing the various action plans and programmes that she said the ministry and the education department were involved in with the goal of keeping schools safe, Rivers admitted, that in some cases the problem couldn’t be addressed in the school or by ministry strategies.

“It must be stated that some of the challenges faced by our school communities from those students who are struggling with severe, complex and significant behavioural or mental health issues go beyond the scope of my Ministry alone,” she said. “These young people pose a risk to both their school environments and their community, and they require intensive and specific interventions to address their needs. Unfortunately, there is a gap in suitable secure therapeutic accommodation for these young people.”

She said that the government, of which she is a part had to act with some urgency and she said she would “continue to lobby” for a “proper mental health facility suitable to address the mental health and wellness needs of a growing population of students,” as the minister added “schools alone are not equipped to deal with such cases.”

Rivers spoke about taking school safety very seriously and said she was being “proactive in addressing the challenges faced by government schools” with a mantra that had been communicated to all staff of ‘no excuses, just solutions’.

Taking about “extensive discussions” and visits to schools to “listen to the concerns raised about school discipline and student behaviour,” she said it was clear everyone wants “schools that are safe, welcoming, supportive and inclusive learning environments.”

Rivers said strengthening the provisions for special education needs was vitally important and she has asked for a “draft an action plan to identify priority areas” and a review of “processes to support the identification, assessment, monitoring and provision for students with behavioural needs.”

She said government recognised that prompt action was needed to address the concerns about behaviour and discipline. “Significant work is well underway to define key expectations and strengthen the way in which school discipline and student behaviour is managed going forward. Stake holders, including parents and students, will be consulted and asked to provide feedback about the existing school code of conduct and home-school agreement. Working groups in the high schools have started to review their school polices with the aim of having fairly apportioned rewards and sanctions according to behaviours demonstrated,” she added.

Rivers said a campaign was in the works to communicate expectations about discipline and behaviour to the community before the new school year and new policies would ensure “consistent standards across the country”.

See full statement below


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  1. Anonymous says:

    If it is truly the case that it is only a few disruptive children. Then why isn't the suggestion made to provide the children with mental care facilities or behavioral facilities in an overseas facility. Ever heard of the adage 'one bad apple spoils the lot' well maybe it would cost the island less in the long term if the entire family was sent with the child for intensive therapy, education and treatment. The overall social impact on the island could decrease prison numbers. Give the parents new skills. Provide a new life for everyone, opportunity to succeed and become constructive members of society. 


    Lets not forget that these children usually come from homes where the parents don't care or care very little. Due to a vast array of reasons. They too want and need help themselves. In an improved environment the changes can be dramatic. Most of these disruptive children and their parents truly only desire attention and someone to care. 


    If something isn't done and left as the status quo, expect the prison numbers to increase. 



  2. Anonymous says:

    We need a facility for mental health, and behavioural issues? Say it nah so!

    Better a late admission than another attempt to sweep it under the carpet.

    Still….I'm very dissapointed that it has taken sooooo long to admit!


  3. MEM says:

    Can someone confirm when tucking your shirt into the uniform pants was abolished? It may seem simple, but "give a child an inch and they'll take a whole mile!!!!"; as schools loosen the reigns on uniform policies and other rules in general like eating all over campus instead of in the canteen and everything else that no longer seems a priority, students will also loosen their respect for the education administrators. In order to maintain control of any situation, all rules, laws and policies must be enforced, if one thing slips through the cracks everything else will! I remember teachers patroling the campus and making sure every blouse was tucked in! I counted at LEAST 30 students waltzing around with uniforms untucked and looking very shabby on campus, these are the future office executives???

    • Anonymous says:

      Memories. Where would we be without them? I remember our current premier – whilst education minister, in a series of  "I'm gonna sort this mess out right now" speeches – vowed to straighten everything out education-wise, including, to your point, the practice of boys walking round with their shirts down to their knees. Seems like things in regard to education weren't quite as simple as had been assumed. Maybe you should ask him what happened.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Hon Minister, I am so pleased that this is being addressed , finally. Unfortunately, it is only when

    an incident of this magnitude occurs that it is given attention. Besides a facilty, I would strongly ecourage that you have the "right" personell in place as the policies will mean nothing without the proper implemenation, meaning the"right" people workingwith these youth. People who actually understand an give a  damn about whether they make it in life or not. Besides having the skill set, being able to build rapport and display empathy are the therapeutic factors that will go the distance in seeing this much needed issue bring forth positive results. 

    I choose not to get into bashing or to point out the inefficiences of our schooling system, however, now that we have a constitution these matters cannot be swept under the playfield, or placed in a lower set or indeed even expelled because of lack of identifying and intervention by the Dept of Edu.

    Please remember that what you don't deal with today will come back and bite you at the least suspecting time.


    • Anonymous says:

      You are absolutely correct in stressing the need for teachers possessed of the qualities you mentioned, but let us not allow ourselves to shift our focus at all away from the primary issue here, which is that of the chronically disruptive behaviour of a minority of our student population. This is the issue at hand. We much focus on restoring a "copable" range of behaviour within our schools, a range that the school could reasonably  be expected to handle, and to accomplish this we must provide for the needs of the students for whom the regular classroom setting is entirely inappropriate. It does not meet their needs and it is evidently wreaking havoc within our whole education system. To your point, have you ever considered how many good teachers, both Caymanian and from overseas, have given up and left in despair as a consequence of the utterly dreadful behaviour of a minority of students who should never have been admitted to our schools to begin with? I know of many Caymanians who fit this profile. How? Because they were once my colleagues.

      • Anonymous says:

        I know in the US they have the "No Child Left Behind" Act, but sometimes there should be "one child left behind"…

      • Anonymous says:

        While there are children and young people who truly have real behaviourial and mental health problems which need to be addressed in another setting my concerns are: will there be clear criteria for young people who fit the need for this assistance (clinical identification) and will the resources be invested to really assist them?

        Sometimes for convenience we begin to 'dump' all young people who challenge our classroom management style, or lack of one, into the behavioural or mental health provision. This takes away from those who truly need it. Assistance must also be offered to teachers whose management style needs bolstering – or in some cases the creation and implementation of one. Oft' times some teachers pass the issue along to the senior members of staff and thus the bottleneck and breakdown begins. Help those who need the assistance deal with their classroom management issues in their own classrooms.

        Personnel who know how to assist youth with mental health issues has always been an issue when we have attempted to address children and youth at this end of the education and social care spectrum. We tend to go cheap. We tend to use the funds for administrators and not trained front-end on the ground personnel who work with the children and youth having the issue. We don't get the results we pay for.      


  5. MEM says:

    Scared Straight program perhaps?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Of Course there is problems with your children

    look up lead poison and go figure it out . Its in your water lots of it and all that old paint your children ate, had an effect didnt it  

    While your are at it inbreeding is not helpful Those true born Caymanians hello…thats really not that good. Stop dating your family members 

    perhaps its time you let outsiders thicken up your bloodlines  

    And another thing when i see your children play they act like wild animals

    that is not a mental problem thats a parenting problem

    O and lets not forget the effect of alcohol on teenage minds It Makes them STUPID

    How about raising the drinking age. Or would that just not matter anyways


    • Anonymous says:

      You raise some interesting points, particularly about the dangers of "inbreeding" here in Cayman, and the consequent need to enlarge the gene pool to guard against this blight. You know, you could indeed be on to something, as perhaps that might also explain the animalistic behaviour of so much of Britain's youth. Have you ever observed them at the weekends outside pubs and night clubs or after football matches? Like a pack of ferel dogs, unrestrained and loud mouthed, having no regard for man nor fellow beast, and mostly completely plastered and throwing up all over the place, making walking on the pavements at night a hazardous and utterly unpleasant affair. A more disgusting set of moronic, loutish thugs one would be hard pressed to find anywhere else in the world. And their behaviour in the schools is equally bad, apparently, which is probably why no one wants to teach in the U.K. anymore. And that probably accounts for the general lack of regard for punctuation amongst the adult population, I should imagine, in particular the use of the apostrophe.

      • Anonymous says:

        I agree. Lack of punctuation, especially use of the apostrophe is one of the most dangerous threats to the stability of our youth, and indeed, to democracy as we know it.

        • Anonymous says:

          Okay, let me try and expand your mind. A kid (or even an adult writing to CNS) doesn't know how to spell or punctuate, so can't get a decent job, so falls prey to the allure of a life of crime providing easy money, so ends up in prison …………… you get the picture? Oh, mine's a pint of bitter, thanks.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Making problems in education someone else's problem.  A cunning ploy from the education minister.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Useless!  What a waste of my vote on this woman.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Blimey, anyone else think this is all a bit long-winded?

    Look, I've taught in Cayman's high schools for donkey's years. It isn't rocket science, parents, as I am sure many of you will appreciate. The stuff she's talking about (conduct expectations etc) is all in place. Ask any former student, perhaps yourself included, if they were made aware of the rules and the sanctions for breaking them. What is currently missing is a rational mechanism within the system to properly address the reality of students whose behaviour (for whatever reason, and the minister was correct in saying that the schools cannot be expected to address these in situ) is so extreme, so far beyond the "norms' of deviant behaviour (being impertinent or disobedient for example), that to place them in a regular school setting and have a reasonable expectation that by some miracle or other they can conform to normal school rules, and also (equally so) that a regular teacher can somehow manage their behaviour, is utterly unrealistic. The truth is some of these students have profound emotional issues and/or mental health conditions, as yet undiagnosed. The presence of these "beyond the pale" students within the classroom has, in my experience, a worsening  effect on the behaviour of students inclined towards disruptive behaviour, but who would nevertheless remain firmly within the scope of the range of "normal" behaviour. Removing and treating (perhaps in a mental health facility) extremely disruptive students from the regular schools would help enormously towards re-establishing a healthy range of behaviour within our schools and thereby, quite naturally, improve both teaching and learning. Our students (both the "model" ones and even the not perhaps quite model ones) deserve a classroom environment in which their teacher's focus is able to be concentrated almost exclusively on teaching.

    • Anonymous says:

      Tara is brilliant and is material for Premier one day may not be too distant in the future!

      These are the kind of women to elect women of action! one who has experienced motherhood is of more benefit to a troubled society than a woman never experiencing childbearing pain, there's a huge difference and society either cries or rejoice if you elect them to a high seat.

      West Bay I am very pleased with you this time around, you eventually replaced a lazy do nothing lost cause with a woman of vision and good cause       I was about to…………..

  10. Coconutz says:

    If I had a printing press that would allow me to print this speech on toilet paper, that's exactly what I would do with it…

    • Johannes Gutenberg X1V says:

      What a novel suggestion. I guess it could be widened to include the uttererances of other politicians and the rolls distrubuted to local supermarkets, the sales numbers providing valuable feedback from the public.

      • Anonymous says:

          09:43.   You certainly given us an idea of what you are made of.Your post is nothing but crap;seems like you are full of it.

        • Anonymous says:

          16.49  You appear to have taken "toilet humour" to a new low and must be flushed with success!

        • Anonymous says:

          Such a witty response from 16.49. Amazing range of  vocabulary and ideas. An inspiration to all of us. Makes me just want to write, write, write!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Children have to be taught discipline and respect from very early, otherwise they will become unruly.  The longer they are unruly, the more vicious they become.  These kids are most likely coming from disfunctional environments anyway, which makes it all the harder to correct as they are living it day after day.  So I agree with the Minister that if you are going to address this isse properly, you need the proper type of facility to do it with.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hold on a moment. I have seen the discipline, beating and whipping or boxing in the ear and this will not fix the mess

      I was not physically diciplined and neither were my children. My parents did not do that stuff. they would send us to our room or time out or take away our favorite toy

      That said Most children with these issues have them because of the parents neglect or their methods of disipline. When a child is acting like an animal perhaps a look into the home should happen and if the parents are not fit remove the children into foster homes or send them overseas to military school In the end it will cost society much less and give the children a chance at a better future.

      Junkie drunk criminal lazy parents will raise the same

       I ask perhaps CNS could find out how many father son teams are in northward

  12. Anonymous says:

    I agree with Tara. This is something that has been needed here in this country for a long time.