Nov 28, 2017 News
– School’s Alumni Association calls for HM to be sent on administrative leave
The Guyana Police Force will shortly commence an investigation into sexual allegations recently levelled against Mr. Coen Jackson, Economics Teacher of The Bishops High School.
Commander of ‘A’ Division, Mr. Marlon Chapman, yesterday, told this publication that the Ministry of Education has given its approval to the Police Force to commence criminal investigation into the matter.
He disclosed that while the investigation has not yet commenced, the first step in the process will entail speaking with witnesses familiar with the matter. “We have to first know who the witnesses are and we have to talk with them,” said Chapman.
Based on the Commander’s disclosure, the police force will be conducting an independent investigation.
He disclosed, yesterday, that he is not aware that any statement[s] from an investigation conducted by the Education Ministry into the matter has been handed over to the Police Force.
On Friday the Ministry of Education, by way of a statement, revealed that it had completed an investigation into allegations which suggest that Jackson, over a period of years, had sexually groomed and indulged in sexual relations with students under his instruction.
The allegations were brought to the fore by Cultural Policy Advisor within the Ministry of Social Cohesion, Ruel Johnson, who had posted his letter addressed to Chief Education Officer, Mr. Marcel Hutson, on Facebook causing a public outcry. The letter was also copied to the Ministers of Social Protection, Public Security, Legal Affairs, Public Health and Social Cohesion.
Jackson, who has retained legal representation, has insisted that he is not guilty of engaging in sexual relations with students under his instruction.
Instead, he accused Johnson of trumping up the allegations because of a relationship he had with a female student with whom he shared an intimate relationship after she left the institution.
According to Jackson, Johnson became offended because he had communicated with the young lady in question who now shares a relationship with Johnson.
The young lady has since commented on the matter via Facebook too. In a lengthy post she spoke of being depressed and too traumatised for some time to relate the extent of the abuse she suffered while still a student of the school.
The allegations against Jackson sparked protest action outside the school and the Education Ministry last week. Concerned citizens called for both Jackson and head teacher, Winifred Ellis, to be terminated.
Calls for Ellis’s termination were linked to a recording in which she lambasted young girls of the school for being ‘loose’ and ‘slack’. The recording was captured during a school assembly.
At the conclusion of the Ministry of Education investigation, which was spearheaded by CEO Hutson, and done in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Protection, it was determined that the matter warranted Police attention.
Also a committee, which was established to investigate the actions of the head teacher, concluded that she be reprimanded and offer an apology to the teachers and students of the school.
Coming out from the investigation too was the need for the Ministry of Education to provide training and support to teachers on how to deal with children on sexual issues. Added to this, the Ministry is also expected to provide counselling support which was requested by the students.
Meanwhile, The Bishops’ High School Alumni Association, in a statement, emphasised its support for the students of the school. In the statement too, the Association commended the Education Ministry for its swift action into the matter. According to the group in its statement, it will continue to follow carefully the matter, which has now been handed over to the police force, and anticipates that it will be prosecuted vigorously by the law.
But according the statement attributed to the Chapter Presidents of the Association, “Our immediate and over-riding concern, however, is to the current student body of the school who have all in some manner been traumatised [and stigmatised] by this matter.
Our message to them is, ‘We are here for you and we will do whatever is within our power to ensure that you are provided with the necessary tools to prevent predatory behaviour of any sort, including avenues to report any such conduct to the relevant authorities.’”
The continued, “Our alumni associations in conjunction with concerned members with expertise in psychology, child welfare, social work and law, are actively working to ensure that this never happens again.
“We have made recommendations with regard to Harassment, Sexual Abuse and Bullying that are being coordinated with others in Guyana with the hope that these measures are adopted by the school.”
The Association in its statement noted that “the outpouring of emotion that this incident has evoked from the alumni body and other concerned citizens, has been truly inspiring,” and added “It shows that we all want to do is what’s right for the students – the very nature of being your brother’s /sister’s keeper and the ethos of what our alumni association stands for.”
It was also emphasised that the Association, despite sometimes varying and heated opinions, embrace that “we want this to end now; those responsible prosecuted, and this to never happen again.”
The Association in its statement underscored, “It cannot be stressed enough that we do not feel confident that the children who have been made to feel unsafe or traumatised, will now come forward and report these incidences in their current environment.
It is troubling that the students did not feel comfortable confiding in any of the teachers at BHS.
“That is why we would like to see the headmistress placed on administrative leave and a thorough and independent investigation of this matter be concluded before a decision is made about her return.
“We quite simply do not think that the Ministry of Education has gone far enough. Ultimately, we only want what’s best for the students at The Bishops’ High School.”
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