Nov 23, 2017 News
– CEO to determine fate of ‘blame and shame’ Headmistress
All of the relevant institutions and human resources are being employed to ensure that the complaints of sexual misconduct that were allegedly perpetuated by a teacher of The Bishops’ High School is addressed in an appropriate manner. This is according to Minister of Education, Ms. Nicolette Henry, in an invited comment to media practitioners yesterday. According to Minister Henry, the teacher, Mr. Coen Jackson, has been sent on administrative leave to ensure that due process can be observed while an investigation into the matter is carried out.
The investigation, in this regard, is being spearheaded by Chief Education Officer, Mr. Marcel Hutson, who Minister Henry noted has responsibility for teachers.
The Minister’s comments on the matter comes on the heels of widely publicised reports of sexual allegations that suggest that Economics teacher of The Bishops’ High School, Mr. Coen Jackson, had committed numerous sexual acts with female students in his charge.
Comments on the matter from the school’s Headmistress [HM], Ms. Winifred Ellis, had also sparked a public outcry. Based on a recording during a school’s assembly, the HM was heard referring to some girls of the school as “slack” and “loose” and suggested that they were to be blamed for any resulting sexual misconduct.
Protest action has since ensued by concerned citizens who have been calling for Ellis to be terminated along with Jackson.
Yesterday, a smaller group than the previous day gathered to express their displeasure.
“We will keep protesting for as long as it takes till we get our results. It will be a relentless citizens’ movement until she is. We want to let these children know that what happened to them at that assembly is unacceptable, and there are adults here who will not stand by and watch that happen. We can only hope that persons who have stories to tell are guided by their conscience.”
Today, the protesters intend to continue their action outside the Ministry of Education in pursuit of swifter action to be taken against the HM.
Meanwhile, Minister Henry in commenting on the manner in which the HM chose to deal with the matter said, “it may not have been the gold standard or the ideal way, and therefore the Chief Education Officer will have to make the appropriate judgment call in keeping with the rules and regulations.”
The Ministry of Education was forced into investigation mode after its CEO was furnished with a letter of the allegations against Mr. Jackson. The letter in question was inked by Cultural Policy Advisor at the Ministry of Social Cohesion, Mr. Ruel Johnson. The damning letter details how Mr. Jackson allegedly groomed numerous female students to have sexual relationships with him. The saga, according to Mr. Johnson’s letter, reportedly occurred in many schools across the public and private sectors and dates as far back as the late 1990s.
Mr. Jackson, who has since “lawyered-up”, has denied the allegations, and has in fact turned an accusing finger at Mr. Johnson. At a press conference, he disclosed that Mr. Johnson had made threats to “destroy” him if he fails to sever ties with a mutual friend. But Mr. Johnson has remained unyielding in accusing Mr. Jackson of being a sexual predator.
Minister Henry acknowledged yesterday that her Ministry was in receipt of an official complaint from Mr. Johnson which was also sent to the Ministries of Social Protection, Public Health, Legal Affairs, Public Protection and Social Cohesion.
According to the Minister, since an investigation was launched by her Ministry, the CEO has met with the Welfare Department as well as persons from the Ministry of Social Protection who have been helping to give direction on the way forward.
“As I am updated of the findings, I will make them public, but that is the information that I have now,” Minister Henry told reporters yesterday.
She however asserted that “There are rules in place for misconduct on the part of teachers and the CEO would be briefing me later [yesterday] as to what course of action they will be taking against the individuals [involved].”
Speaking further on the matter, the Minister shared her view that the situation is one that speaks to the need for awareness and understanding.
“If this is a case of sexual misconduct or harassment then both perpetrators and victims need certain awareness, particularly for children, because their age makes them vulnerable, and therefore the school will have to ensure that they are aware how to report, what to accept, what not to accept. These are parts of education that should accompany mainstream academics,” the Education Minister amplified.
Once such measures are in place, the Minister noted that “if reports are made, then investigation will be an automatic continuum.”
Meanwhile, Minister Henry disclosed yesterday, too, that her Ministry will also be looking to ensure that all schools have access to counselling and psychosocial support. She however noted that while the Ministry does not have neither the human capacity or fiscal resources to ensure that a counsellor and the accompanying environment is available at all schools, the Ministry will be working towards the possibility of access to these services for all schools.
In this regard, she revealed that she has incorporated in her 2018 budget presentation the need for the implementation of mobile services to enable access. She highlighted that the Ministry of Education cannot address this need in isolation, and that this will require support from both the Public Health and Social Protection Ministries.
As she stressed the need for an inter-agency response, Minister Henry asserted that “This incident in itself is a demonstration of a gap…”
“These issues are not only criminal in some cases, but they are also confidentially sensitive, so they need the right people.”
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