TO COMBAT SCHOOL VANDALISM, BULLYING, INCREASE IN SEXUAL BEHAVIOR
The recent spate of vandalism and burglary at Kagman Elementary School and a newly released report of students engaging in risky sexual behavior, bullying, and a hike in obesity have alarmed Public School System officials, who now appeal to parents and the community to pitch in and help address these issues.
While PSS has done all it can to resolve the many issues currently besetting the islands’ youth, Education Commissioner Dr. Rita A. Sablan is asking for students’ families and the community as a whole to help PSS find a solution to these problems.
According to her, the adage “it takes a whole village to raise a child” is very much true and needed in the CNMI.
Campuses are secure
Despite these challenges, Sablan assured everyone that school campuses remain secure for students.
“Our schools are secure. It’s the people that come into our campus who break in and that’s uncalled for. They should respect our campuses because these belong to our students and whoever is doing this—vandalism and burglary—they better stop it because when we catch you, that would be the day,” said a visibly upset Sablan.
KagES have fallen victim several times to vandals and, at the most recent event, to burglars. Suspects remain at large but investigations continue.
“I hope they’ll catch them soon and put them all in jail,” Sablan said.
Sablan declined to elaborate on security details, citing the confidentiality of the security measures being enforced by PSS.
But she admitted that in terms of “security services,” many schools are challenged by their tight budgets, which also funds the hiring of security guards, cameras, and other related equipment.
“Yes, funding is a factor because we didn’t get enough money for operational costs so schools have to really tighten their budgets and makes sure they are able to provide all the services that are needed by the students,” she told Saipan Tribune.
She said these acts of stealing and damaging school property are an obvious show of disrespect to students. She revealed that many of the damaged items and stolen materials at KagES were procured using federal funds.
“It’s a big loss to our students,” she added.
On Friday, PSS released the results of its 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted among middle and secondary school students.
Sablan said the results in three specific areas—students engaging in sex, bullying, and obesity—are at an all-time high and continue to alarm PSS.
“We actually implemented many different programs [to combat these]. We have leveraged our partnership with agencies such as the mental health, DPH [Division of Public Health], CGC [Community Guidance Center], and others. But these aren’t enough. We need the entire community to come out and be part of the process because it’s everybody’s responsibility,” said Sablan.
The latest survey indicated that 45 percent of student respondents had sex in the last three months—the highest recorded by the Public School System in the last five surveys conducted since 2003. In the 2003 survey, this was at 35.6 percent; in 2005, 43.1 percent; in 2009, 40.1 percent; and in 2011, 42.4 percent.
“Parents have responsibility to prepare their children to start talking about sexual behaviors and health. It should not always end up in schools because that’s also a home responsibility,” Sablan said.
On the issue of bullying and increasing number of obese children, the commissioner pointed out that several programs have been initiated and implemented coupled with necessary policies in place.
Based on the 2013 survey, many students disclosed that they have been bullied on school property. The results indicated that the percentage was high at 19.7 percent in 2013 compared to 18.5 percent during the 2011 survey.
Results also indicated that the percentage of students who were overweight slightly increased from 16.7 percent in 2011 to 16.8 percent in 2013.