Editorial: Boarding schools, discipline, social order, and violence

Student studying
Student studying (Photo credit: Emmanuel Ikwuegbu)

Jamaica continues to be plagued by social disorder and homicidal violence. Critical thinking and empirically-based solutions to the problem of homicidal violence and general social disorder are largely absent in Jamaica. There are usually pronouncements from many sectors of society that are well intentioned but unhelpful. Take, for example, a recent letter of the day in another news outlet which touted boarding schools as the solution to indiscipline among high school students. This indiscipline in schools is often cited as the cause of the violence and social disorder that exist in the society. Many children who bond with their parents and receive love and care from them will occasionally be disobedient and flout regulations. These normal children will also engage in other transgressions and push the regulatory boundaries set by adults which is a part of engaging the social world as they grow up. Boarding schools are ideal for these children who are generally well bred by the time they enter high school.

Boarding schools cannot cater to or meet the needs of children who enter high school with attachment disorders arising from parental neglect, significant physical abuse, sexual abuse and antisocial personality disorder. The local research shows that these are children that have the psychic structure for dropping out of school, violence, mayhem, and killing, and indeed some become repeat killers in Jamaica.  

Boarding schools are for well-adjusted children who have developed relatively secure bonds with their parents, emotional regulation and have largely internalized their rules-based socialization. These children, for varying reasons, engage in transgressions (mostly trivial) that the rigid institutional structure, detentions, and demerits and so on can address because they have normal psychology!

Boarding school staff are not trained and professionally equipped to deal with very violent children coming from dysfunctional crime incubation families and violent crime factory communities. These children have abnormal psychology because of family dysfunctions across the life course and chronic community violence. These are the children with personality disorders who externalize violence.  The Ministry of Education must partner with the Child Guidance and Adolescent Clinics and the Community Mental Health Service of the Ministry of Health to intervene with children who have internalized violence and are acting out!

Children who engage in regular childhood infractions in schools are generally not the perpetrators of homicidal violence and social disorder as adults. The perpetrators come from abusive and dysfunctional homes, violent communities and failing schools. Therefore, we should seek to change the conditions that generate the criminals backed by effective use and application of police presence to deal with homicidal violence and social disorder.

We will not significantly reduce the foregoing problems without changing the social norms to support not just legality but also morality. Many Jamaicans see a legal difference among political corruption, high banking fees and scamming but not a moral difference.

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