Parents of students attending the School of Nations on New Market Street, Georgetown are now fearful for their children’s safety at the institution in the wake of the recent shooting of the Director, Dr Brian O’Toole and the constant threats posted on social media allegedly by an expelled student.
Their distress was clearly voiced during an engagement with the school’s administration on Monday, as questions mounted about the level of security which has been adopted in recent days.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of School of Nations, Dr Dexter Phillips explained that they were installing additional security cameras at blind spots along with an increased security presence at the entrances.
It was indicated that the administration took a decision to not resume classes as per normal today with the assistance of the Guyana Police Force for increased support. Meanwhile, random bag checks will be instituted at the school’s entrance and vehicles are not allowed in the premises.
“We did a sweep of the campus…We have also increased security presence. In the coming days, we would continue to discuss more permanent measures with security and more security cameras will be installed. We have also requested some Police presence and when school resumes, we should have two or three Police on campus and in the street,” said Phillips.
The school had to implement these measures after the Director was shot on Sunday night about 21:44h at his Prashad Nagar home shortly after returning home from a restaurant. The Police report stated that the 64-year-old man returned home and secured his gate after entering. As he was about to open the door, a male suspect approached him, pointed a gun and discharged three rounds in his direction – -two of which caught him in both forearms.
His wife, Pamela O’Toole, heard the shots and upon checking, found her injured husband and rushed him to the Woodlands Hospital, where his condition is said to be stable.
This act came with what was considered warning signs from a social media account, believed to be created by students of the institution. The posts started on WhatsApp and moved to Facebook, where threats were made to the lives of students. In one instance, two persons were mentioned in the online posts.
Parents shared there has been no training provided to teachers as of recent to deal with any unfortunate incidents.
One individual noted that random bag checks did not eliminate the possibility of weapons and chemicals entering the school. Some chemicals can be hidden in water bottles and camouflaged as water or soda.
It was questioned as to whether in the planning process, a contingency plan was established in the event of an emergency. This would enable students to determine where they should assemble and highlight the safe spaces. The administration could not provide an answer to these concerns, but reassured that “protocols” were in place.
The guardians spared no opportunity to probe the ongoing investigation by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Police Force. Phillips maintained that he could not divulge any information until the investigation is completed. However, he stated that one individual who made the first threat is with the Police.
“We continue to work with the relevant Police authorities for the threats posted on social media and the shooting of Dr O’Toole,” said the CEO.
Hints were made that if the posts are linked to the shooting incident, there is a bigger risk at hand since the posts indicated that several persons hold grudges against the school.
One of the posts read, “If you feel life was ‘surreal’, I will show what reality is next week…there is a plethora of us who feel the same way.”
Meanwhile, a former student of the institution has been taken into Police custody as the probe continues.