Updated 8.50 am with MUT call for an updated discipline policy.
The education authorities have launched an investigation after a girl chased another student on the schoolgrounds holding what has been described as a butter knife taken from the staff kitchen, Times of Malta has learned.
Sources said the incident took place at Naxxar Middle School just before noon on Tuesday and it shocked and frightened other students and staff.
The two girls involved, both aged 12, were sent home.
This is not the first time this particular student has caused trouble- School source
Sources said they got into a physical fight at breaktime. They pulled at each other’s hair and one of them lost a handful.
Teachers who were supervising the children during the break rushed to the scene of the commotion in the playground and separated the two girls.
But the fight was far from over.
The sources said one of the girls ran to the school kitchenette, which is used by teachers and other staff, grabbed a “butter knife” and tried to chase the other girl before being stopped.
It is not known how sharp the butter knife was but eyewitnesses said the incident caused a considerable amount of fear among students and staff, with some students even seen crying from shock.
The two girls’ parents were called in and disciplinary action was immediately taken against both students, the sources said.
“This is not the first time this particular student has caused trouble,” one source at the school told Times of Malta, adding that teachers have long been calling for better security in and around the school grounds.
A spokesperson for the Education Ministry thanked educators for their prompt action. He said the students will be offered psychological support while the school authorities evaluate what disciplinary action to take.
Another source said the large school was seriously understaffed and management was not taking certain issues seriously.
“One day, we’ll have something a lot more serious and then maybe they’ll wake up,” the source said.
Just last month, Times of Malta reported how educators in schools across the island were told to increase vigilance and conduct spot checks after a surge in the discovery of dangerous items in students’ bags, including flick knives, penknives and other sharp instruments. Kitchen knives and razor blades were also found.
Then, the education ministry confirmed the authorities had discovered 30 of these “sharp objects” this scholastic year, although a spokesperson did not elaborate on the finds.
Seven of these finds were made in primary schools, three in middle schools and 20 involved secondary school students.
The Malta Union of Teachers in a statement issued on Thursday morning, said it had been in communication with the Education Ministry about the incident to ensure that necessary support was provided to the school and sanctions were taken.
"The MUT repeats its position on zero tolerance for student misbehaviour and it supports all educators who are working in schools and facing such difficult situations," it said.
It called on education authorities to be firm in their position when dealing with such situations and said it has requested the Education Ministry to initiate discussions to update the discipline policy for state schools.
In a statement the Education Ministry said the girl who grabbed the butter knife was quickly restrained by an educator. The ministry said it was giving the necessary support to educators, and the minister, Clifton Grima, asked the school administration to investigate the case.