In the wake of a second threat to injure students of the School of the Nations, the administration of the privately-owned institution on Sunday called in police and asked Facebook and a cyber-security expert to track down the perpetrator, Principal Dr. Brian O’Toole said.
While Facebook is yet to respond, O’Toole said a major cyber-security firm that works for the US State Department has already indicated that it would be hard to track down the suspect. “They say it’s very difficult because anyone of us can go home tonight, make up a Hotmail address or Facebook and that’s the evil with the Internet because then you’ve got the capacity to put out absolute untruths,” O’Toole said.
Guyana’s Chief Education Officer, Marcel Hutson told the parents that while the Ministry of Education does not directly govern private schools, government would not ignore the problem. Hutson appealed to parents to play a fundamental role in instilling order and discipline regardless of how wealthy they are. “Anybody we find that would become a threat or become harmful to the learning environment will be dealt with swiftly and condignly,” he said.
Addressing hundreds of parents at an emergency meeting, O’Toole said the gates would be closed and no one would be allowed to drop off or collect their children inside the compound in order to minimise strangers entering. Instead, they would have to check with the security guards.
O’Toole further announced that armed guards from a private security service would be deployed to the school, but he assured they would not be moving around the compound with their weapons visible. He said the Guyana Police Force would be asked to send law enforcement agents to the school to boost security confidence in students, parents and teachers.
The Principal of School of the Nations said the institution would not be closed but parents have the right not to send their children to the school for security reasons.
The school’s administration plans to meet with the Sixth Formers on Monday as part of efforts to identify the student who made the threat. “I find it very hard to believe in a small community like Guyana that it would be possible that somebody doesn’t know who made this [Facebook] post,” O’Toole said, adding that the person was “deranged enough” to also post that he or she would have been attending the meeting.
O’Toole was unsure whether Sunday’s threat, which included someone holding a pistol, and suggesting he would douse Sixth Form students with a mixture of chlorine, water and sodium to burn their skin off, came from a student who was expelled last week after he had said he was joking.
In Sunday’s Facebook post, the person indicated that he or she was aggrieved. “I’m tired of life. Before I go out I want to give a message to all of you… You all looked down on me this past year without a shred of recognition. Everyone will know me now. If you even have an iota of care for this world, don’t bother showing up next week,” the person whose Facebook profile name is Nations Trollololololo. Based on the nature of the threat one of the parents suggested that the laboratory where chemicals are stored is properly accounted for. Other parents urged fellow parents to ensure their children do not have access to their firearms.
Parents were assured that the teaching staff do not shun students who have problems. “I will challenge any parent or any student to say that we have turned them away. We might not agree with what they tell us but most definitely in my perception, we’ll always listen and after listening we’ll investigate…,” he said.
Teachers and parents were asked to closely monitor the children for signs of mental problems, rather than leaving it up to the school’s two resident counsellors.
The Principal said the school was forced to summon a meeting of parents and guardians at short notice but the “poisonous” threat must be taken seriously based on global trends.