CASTRIES, St. Lucia, May 11, CMC – Law enforcement officers Friday warned that they would implement new measures, including the detention of school children loitering around the capital as they move to stamp out a practice they fear could get out of control.
“From Friday we have moved to detain school children found loitering in various sections of the city in their uniform. The action is intended to curb the practice of loitering among thousands of school children who descend on city daily after school,” said Police Commissioner Vernon Francois.
He warned parents and guardians to ensure that they are aware of the whereabouts of their children after school hours, adding that unless the students were engaged in official extracurricular activities they should proceed to their homes.
“Any child found within the city after school will be detained by the police and the parent of that child will be held responsible. We are again seeking the kind co operation of the public to assist in that regard,” the Commissioner noted.
But there has been mixed reaction to the position adopted by the police.
President of the St. Lucia Teachers Union (SLTU), Julian Monrose, urged the authorities to exercise “extreme caution” when dealing with students, and the Principals Association said that the new strategy had been adopted without any consultation with the various stakeholders including parents and teachers.
The National Youth Council (NYC), said it viewed loitering as “a social and not a law enforcement issue” and called for the safeguard of civil liberties citing the need for the introduction of attendant social programmes to address the under-lying factors which contribute to the problem.
But it acknowledged that parents and guardians also have a responsibility to ensure that children return home within a reasonable time after school.