The Ministry of Education has concluded its investigations into the allegations of sexual predation against Bishops’ High School teacher Coen Jackson and the case has since been handed over to the Guyana Police Force.
“In the case of the Bishops’ High School teacher, Mr. Coen Jackson, the Ministry of Education Welfare Department in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Protec-tion concluded its investigation and handed the matter over to the Guyana Police Force,” the ministry said in a statement issued yesterday afternoon, while also announcing that headmistress Winifred Ellis, who had berated female students, would be reprimanded for inappropriate behaviour.
Jackson, 38, an economics teacher, has been accused of preying on several female students; grooming them before entering into sexually relationships with the young women. A formal report was made on Monday against him by Cultural Policy Advisor at the Education Ministry Ruel Johnson, who first made reference to the issue via his Facebook page.
Jackson, who has denied all the allegations, was subsequently sent on administrative leave.
A Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) meeting was held yesterday at the school, where Ellis met with and apologised to parents.
This newspaper was told that she indicated that she had been upset at the time she made the remarks to the students.
In an audio recording of Ellis’ interaction with some female students during an assembly on Monday, she was heard making reference to specific situations where female students had to be upbraided by staff members, including herself, for their behaviour in school. She also criticised students for not defending Jackson. Her remarks have been likened to “victim blaming” and “slut shaming” by critics, who have called for her removal.
Ellis also reportedly explained at the PTA meeting that Johnson had called her on Friday to inform her of the allegations against Jackson, but when she asked him to provide her with evidence to support, he stated that he would call her back but did not. She said that the next day, the allegations would hit social media, but she did not have any evidence to make an official report of the matter.
It was reported that the audio recording was played and Ellis was made to provide an explanation in response. Ellis was said to have received outward support from the parents at the meeting.
However, the Education Ministry said yesterday that she was found culpable of breaching the regulations under section 35 of the Education Act, titled, “Inappropriate behaviour by teachers in school.” The ministry explained that such a breach is liable to a first warning.
As a result, it was recommended that Ellis be reprimanded and that she apologises to the students and teachers of the school; that the ministry provide training and support to teachers on how to deal with children on sexual issues; and that the ministry provides counselling support, as requested by the students.
The committee tasked with handling the case comprised the Chief Education Officer Marcel Hutson, the Legal Advisor to the Ministry of Education Kelly-Ann Payne-Hercules, Guyana Teachers’ Union Repre-sentative Lance Baptiste, President of the Bishops’ High School Board Ruth Lee, President of the Bishops’ High School PTA Sondra Lowe, National PTA Coordinator Nadia Hollingsworth, Coordina-tor of Health and Family Life Education Coleen King-Cameron and the two Head Prefects of the Bishops’ High School.
Victimisation is victimisation
Meanwhile, a post by a student of the school that was widely circulated on social media indicated that members of the public were targeting students as a result of the attention the issue has been garnering in the media.
The remarks of the student were reportedly delivered at a meeting engaging the Bishops’ High School Board of Governors, the Old Student’s Association, the PTA, Ministry of Education officials, the GTU and the Child Care and Protection Agency.
It was stated that the address embodies the concerns of the student body, which were captured during a meeting held by them to express their concerns.
“Victimisation is victimisation, regardless of what form it takes,” the student wrote, while noting that if one condemns and detests one form but does not do same for another form, it ought to be deemed as hypocritical.
The student reported that students have now been subjected to outrageous comments and questions when they walk the streets and he described several instances over the past few days where insensitive comments were hurled as strangers questioned whether they had ever been messaged or touched by the teacher.
“Now, I’m psychologically prepared to deal with this kind of occurrence, but I cannot say same for the 600 odd students that attend this institution. There are children here who are not even in their teens as yet,” the student stated.
He also decried sentiments suggesting that the high school perpetuates rape culture.
“…it has now been peddled in the public domain that the Bishops’ High School, “perpetuates rape culture.” This has now led the public to believe that rape culture is inextricably linked to “Bishops’ culture”, and that is absolutely, absolutely ridiculous. I will give you a concrete example of what this “rape culture” image that is being portrayed of this institution has caused. Yesterday, as one of our male students was making his way to the park, he was stopped and asked by a woman, ‘you gon molest my daughter too?’” he wrote
“This gives you the general idea of the conceived thoughts of persons because of the information that is being peddled to them. That the boys in the Bishops’ High School [partake] in rape culture; that every girl at Bishops’ has been molested; that so long as you are attired in Bishops’ uniform you ought to be looked at differently in light of recent events,” the student said.
As a result, a call was made for “appropriate action” to be taken to stop the “institutional attack” and peddling of “outrageous propaganda” against the Bishops’ High School.