Safety in schools

first_imgIn some schools in the USA, metal detectors are common as sometimes the presence of a Police patrol on the outskirts. Some may be tempted to ask why in a country that is rich and is the bastion of freedom and democracy. Others may counter that, exactly because of what the country represents, it can afford to have such mechanisms in place. The answer basically lies in trying to curb violence in schools.While the measures may appear to some as being extreme, given what unfortunately happened in the past where lives were senselessly lost to bullets, it may be deemed inadequate. After all, it hasn’t stopped. Other menaces are bullying and gang-related violence. These are the harsh realities in some institutions of learning there with an obvious negative impact on the student population involved.It is not confined to there and is prevalent in many other places. Here, Guyana is trying to come to grips with a seemingly new reality of gun violence recently perpetrated against the Principal of a leading private school – that might have stemmed from frightening threats on social media allegedly by someone who may have been a part of that school’s family. Even more frightening is that the threats are being renewed.Whatever the grouse, in the end: the Principal is injured and hospitalised; classes have been suspended naturally out of concern for safety; and fear has crept into the minds of students, parents, and staff. The Police have since announced deployment at city schools. Who would have thought that in the process of getting an education here is Guyana, safety in schools is becoming a primary concern? With the threats in question, it seems rightfully so.Some signs lurked to warn about violence in schools, but maybe not to that extent. Some time before the shooting, there were reports of a teacher who was severely beaten reportedly by a student. Over time, there were other reports of students being stabbed by others or hurt by other means. Bullying, which is just another form of abuse and even violence, was reported to be highly prevalent in many schools.Those represent reported cases as the understanding is many are unreported out of fear of repercussion. In some schools, there is reportedly a visible presence of known gangs, which are identified by particular colours. Some of the violence meted out allegedly results from the initiation process. There were published articles over the menacing presence of two particular gangs in parts of the country which have infiltrated some schools.While the gangs and the reason for the Principal being shot may not be related, the sum total is that the chance of being hurt in school has increased over time. Solace must not be taken in the fact that we are living in a changing world. For once so rationalised, then what unfortunately happened to the Principal could be accepted as the new routine. Violence over the years and its extensive coverage in the media have led to a seeming immunity to the gory images and now make for casual reading.This must not be allowed to slip into the mindset of students and teachers. They must be free from such psychological stress and be able to focus on learning to build much-needed capacity for the future of the country. All, especially the relevant authorities, have an integral role to play in helping to repel this scourge.While there may be compelling arguments over what may be the reasons perpetrators act the way they do and the spread of violence, immediate mitigating measures have to be derived and implemented, so despicable acts such as the shooting in question must not be repeated.The Police presence, while welcomed and a potential deterrent, may not be enough in the long term as sustainability could become an issue. It has to be supported by other means, particularly in schools deemed to be high-risk. Even in that, the unexpected can happen in one deemed to be of no risk. The situation, therefore, becomes much more complicated in a country of very limited related resources.Many have argued that parents and guardians need to be more involved and aware of what their children are doing, keeping an eye on any possible worrying sign. While that could still be effective in many ways, there is a challenge as the child approaches adulthood. At that stage, one’s space and privacy could present barriers. There are also social factors that contribute to disallowing such necessary intervention to some extent. That further complicates an already-complicated situation.Currently, the fear that prevails within the mindsets of parents, students, and teachers of the school in question is understandable. They would need guidance, reassurance and solutions in both the short and long term. The situation would probably demand the establishment of a non-partisan special task force comprising skilled personnel from the relevant sections of Government and civil society to examine and recommend practical solutions within the shortest possible time.Whatever the findings are, the resources must be found to implement the necessary measures given what’s at stake. If not, the fun in learning could be evaporated if it hasn’t begun already, through a sad and unwelcomed import from up north.last_img read more

NEON ecological laboratory at risk fired advisers warn NSF after shakeup

first_img NEON ecological laboratory at risk, fired advisers warn NSF after shake-up THOMAS COLBY WRIGHT Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country By Jeffrey MervisJan. 15, 2019 , 4:50 PM Ecologists take vegetation measurements in 2018 at NEON’s Toolik Lake site in northern Alaska. The upheaval is NEON’s latest self-inflicted wound. First proposed by then–NSF Director Rita Colwell in 2000, the project has chewed up half a dozen scientific directors—Collinge lasted less than a year—ensnared two contractors, prompted a congressional inquiry over spending and management practices, and generated a seemingly endless stream of critical reviews by outside experts. Many ecologists also worry that NEON’s $65-million-a-year operating budget will reduce the NSF funding available for ecological research that doesn’t rely on data from the 81-site facility, which is headquartered in Boulder, Colorado.Battelle took over NEON in 2016, after NSF fired the project’s original contractor, and the Columbus-based nonprofit is widely credited with putting the project on the right track. By the end of 2018 it had completed work on all but one of NEON’s data-collecting sites, for $10 million less than the latest projected cost of $469 million. At a meeting in November 2018, members of the National Science Board, NSF’s presidentially appointed oversight body, welcomed the progress. “I feel we are in a very happy place,” said Inez Fung, an atmospheric scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, who had led an ad hoc panel created to keep close tabs on NEON. (Fung has since rotated off the board.) “I am looking forward to very great discoveries,” she added.But this month’s events have clouded NEON’s future. On 4 January, Battelle executives removed Richard Leonard, who had overseen the project’s turnaround, and ecologist Wendy Gram, a senior manager and head of engagement who had worked at NEON since 2008. Within minutes, both had been escorted out of NEON’s headquarters.Collinge, who took a 2-year leave from the University of Colorado in Boulder when she joined NEON in February 2018, says Battelle gave her no notice of the firings. She sees them as the final straw in a series of developments that had undermined her ability to lead the observatory.“I have not been granted the authority to be successful,” she wrote to Battelle officials as she announced her decision to return a year early to her tenured position as a professor of environmental studies. Battelle had promised that she would have the power to “allocate resources, both human and financial,” Collinge says, and the firings were a breach of that agreement.Battelle, however, has said Collinge could not have hiring and firing authority because she is not an employee of the nonprofit. And Patrick Jarvis, Battelle’s senior vice president of marketing and communications, says a management change was needed as NEON shifts from construction to operation.“Since we are shifting our focus, we decided to streamline our management structure to use our funds most efficiently,” Jarvis told Science. He says soil scientist Eugene Kelly, who spent a year as NEON’s top scientist during the transition to Battelle, has agreed to return in an acting capacity until a permanent observatory director is hired. The new head will have “a free hand” in deciding how to reconstitute any advisory structure, Jarvis adds.Restoring the committee is crucial, some former members of NEON’s advisory panel say. STEAC was “the primary means of communication and guidance between the scientific community and NEON,” they note in their letter. “These [advisory] structures must be able to tell an organization what it may not want to hear, without fear of retaliation,” they write. That independence was lacking, say former STEAC members, because the panel reported to Battelle, not to NSF—a relationship that appears to be unique among the many large facilities that NSF has funded and operates through contractors.How NSF responds to the latest crisis will be key to NEON’s future. But its reaction has been muted by the current partial government shutdown, which has furloughed the NSF staffers who oversee the project.One question is whether Battelle’s contract to manage NEON will be renewed when the current agreement ends in September 2020. NSF selected the firm “because they know how to build things and because we were facing a crisis,” says Fung, adding that board members expect “a robust competition” for the next contract.Some scientists wonder whether it’s time for a change. “Battelle rescued NEON and did an excellent job of building it out,” says plant biologist Scott Collins of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, a STEAC member who worked at NSF when NEON was hatched. “But they don’t know how to run an ecological observatory.”Despite the current turmoil, ecologists are still rooting for NEON to succeed. But a tweet Desai posted shortly after getting the news about this month’s shake-up reflects what many worry might happen instead: “Great data, no users, no trust = failure.”center_img Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Email The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), a half-billion-dollar facility funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), hopes to revolutionize ecology by collecting an unprecedented amount of data about long-term environmental changes across North America. But as NEON prepares to begin full operations, an abrupt leadership shake-up threatens to alienate the scientists who will be using those data and, thus, are essential to its success.On 8 January, Sharon Collinge, NEON’s chief scientist and principal investigator, resigned 4 days after Battelle Memorial Institute, which manages the network, fired two senior managers without her knowledge or consent. Within hours of Collinge’s resignation, Battelle dissolved NEON’s 20-member technical advisory committee, heading off a possible mass resignation of panel members opposed to Battelle’s actions. The rapid-fire developments came after years of cost overruns, construction delays, and debate over the project’s scientific merits and left many researchers bewildered and concerned.Battelle “just burned some of the most prominent ecologists in the country,” says Ankur Desai, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison who served on NEON’s now disbanded Science, Technology & Education Advisory Committee (STEAC). “This has put the project at massive risk.” He and other former STEAC members want the advisory panel reinstated and its role strengthened. Disbanding it “leaves NEON open to missteps and … is breeding mistrust in the user community,” they wrote in a 14 January letter to Battelle executives and NSF leadership. (Read the letter.)last_img read more