Program working with slain student was discontinued at school
Perry Rolle’s death may have been prevented had the Restorative Justice Program at T.A. Thompson not been discontinued at the end of the school year in 2017, said former program administrator Annette Humes yesterday.
Rolle, a 15-year-old student at T.A. Thompson Junior High School, was killed on Tuesday.
Police said a student from C.C. Sweeting Senior High School stabbed him in the chest following a fight on Pitt Road.
This was the third time Rolle was stabbed, according to his mother, who also noted that he was constantly being bullied by boys from C.C. Sweeting.
In an interview with The Nassau Guardian, Humes said, “I am frustrated for the simple fact that I see two mothers who have basically lost their children unnecessarily.
“Even though Perry’s mother is burying him, the alleged perpetrator’s mother has also lost her son to the system, and I think that could have been avoided.”
The Restorative Justice Program sought to encourage peaceful resolutions to conflicts involving students, both in school and at home.
Humes said, “I believe that he would have been alive for the simple fact that he and the alleged perpetrator were both children that we were working with in the school, and, so, the children we would take out of the classes at times to deal with one-on-one.”
Kendra Bowe, former director of the program, said it addressed root causes of violence among students by providing counseling and family intervention, as well as rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior.
The program’s pilot for the 2016-2017 school year was approved by former Director of Education Lionel Sands.
However, Bowe said despite notable positive results, with T.A. Thompson even having been awarded for the improvements at the school, the program was not continued after the completion of the pilot in 2017.
“We got some phenomenal results from that program,” she said.
“The late [students] at the school [were] up to about 200 a day. We got them down to single digits, which means under 10.
“We implemented a school boot camp, and so students who came late had to do a boot camp program.”
She continued, “We found out what was going on that was contributing to the lateness of the students, and then we found ways to connect with the parents, holding parents accountable as well.
“We did in-school suspension, so instead of students being suspended on matters that could have been resolved on campus, we used our skills in conflict resolution to help resolve those conflicts on campus.
“One of the things that we did also is we had them do cleanup campaigns, basic maintenance, and we supervised them in doing that as well.
“In addition to that we did patrols, so patrols in the morning and patrols in the afternoons when fights would normally occur.
“So, when students leave between C.C. Sweeting and T.A. Thompson, there are different hot spots where fights would normally occur and where students also would stash weapons. And, so, we would do patrols in those areas in order to break up any fights that would occur in those areas.”
According to Bowe, there were also notable improvements in the number of fights between students, with only 19 incidents in 2016 compared to 51 incidents in 2015.
Moreover, there were only 18 instances of students caught skipping class in 2016, compared to 68 in 2015.
The program was discontinued because it did not align with the methods of the Ministry of Education’s suspension program, which places suspended students in centers across the island during their out-of-school suspension, Humes said.
“I personally feel like we need to be separate and apart from what the suspension centers are doing, because they’re not doing [what we were], and we wanted to be proactive rather than reactive,” she added.
“What suspension is, what the centers are doing is…what they can in the short period of time that they have the children, but they are reactive.
“They are reacting to whatever situation is going on in the school and whatever the child has done.
“We were trying to prevent that, prevent the child from misbehaving.”
Humes insisted that the suspension centers do not have enough time to get to know students and their family dynamics, which she said was what contributed primarily to the Restorative Justice Program’s success.
“We were more effective because we knew where you lived, because we communicated with mommy, because we knew where you hang out in the community,” she said.
Humes added, “The whole community… said what a difference there was with those children.”