Coen Jackson, the Bishops’ High School teacher accused of sexually grooming and preying on female students has been sent on administrative leave pending the outcome of investigations.
During a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Jackson, in the company of his three attorneys told members of the media that he had asked to “take a leave of absence” from the school so as not to destroy the sanctity of the school.
However, Minister of Education Nicolette Henry yesterday told reporters that Jackson’s purported decision to proceed on leave was not his but in fact that of her Ministry.
“As the Ministry, we would have taken a decision to send the teacher who these allegations were made against, on administrative leave so that due process can be observed while an investigation is being carried out. When I am updated on what the findings of those are I will make them public and that is the information I have at this point,” Henry said.
Additionally, Henry said she met with the Welfare Department of the ministry and the Ministry of Social Protection on Tuesday regarding the issue.
“We are in receipt of a complaint by (Ministry advisor) Mr. (Ruel) Johnson and I have asked the Chief Education Officer (Marcel Hutson) to utilize all of the institutions and human resources that we have available to ensure that we address the matter appropriately in keeping with the rules and regulations. He has indicated to me that yesterday he met with the welfare department, the Ministry of Social Protection and they have determined the next step,” she added.
Commenting on the likelihood of action being taken against The Bishops’ High Head Teacher, Winifred Ellis who found herself in hot water after remonstrating with female students during a general assembly for not defending Jackson amid the initial allegations on social media, the Minister said a decision has not yet been taken on how the Head Teacher will be dealt with.
“There are rules in place for misconduct on the part of the teacher and the Chief Education Officer will be briefing me on that on what course of action will be taken against the individual. As it turns out, I’m going to be briefed on what they’re going to be doing with her, whether its censure or something more serious based on the nature of what we’re dealing with,” she explained.
Henry also admitted that though the manner in which Ellis approached the matter “may not have been the gold standard or ideal way, the Chief Education Officer has to make a judgement call in keeping with rules and regulations.”
On whether the allegations involving Jackson will prompt investigations in other schools, the Minister stated that such action would only be taken if the need arises. Nevertheless, Henry agreed that the ongoing controversy speaks to the need for more education of students and teachers on the issue.
“If this is a case of sexual misconduct or harassment, both perpetrators and victims need certain awareness, particularly children because as you understand, their age makes them vulnerable and therefore the school system, we will have to ensure they are aware how to report, what to accept, what not to accept—these are part of education that should accompany mainstream and academic education. The Ministry would be very interested in executing that so that coming out of that, if reports are made then certainly investigations will be an automatic continuum of that but we would first of all want to raise awareness and education on the issue depending on what is reported for investigations to be done and appropriate action be taken,” she added.
In the meantime, the social activists and other concerned members of the public continued their protest calling for Ellis’ resignation outside of the Bishops’ High School with further plans to take the protest in front of the Ministry of Education today.
Stabroek News was told by the group that the protests will continue until action is taken against the head teacher.
Meanwhile, Minister of Social Protection Amna Ally, when asked to comment on the matter said, “I believe the law will takes its course with the teacher and it is very important for us to address it because it is a very serious issue but for now, I think the investigations are important. We want to see whether people are coming forward to give evidence and then the law will take its course”.