The Chapter Presidents of the Bishops’ High School (BHS) Alumni Association have called for a “thorough and independent investigation” of the sexual predation allegations made against a teacher at the school and they say headmistress Winifred Ellis should be sent on administrative leave, pending the findings.
This position comes just three days after the Ministry of Education would have announced the findings of its own investigation, which concluded that Ellis was found to be culpable of inappropriate behaviour for her berating of female students and that she be reprimanded for her actions.
Economics teacher Coen Jackson, who has been attached to the high school for the past 11 years, is now the subject of a police investigation following allegations that he has sexually grooming dozens of his female students at the institution, and several institutions before that.
After the allegations broke on social media, Ellis had used an assembly to berate the female students, making reference to their conduct and citing examples of times staff had had cause to upbraid them for their behaviour. She also questioned why none of them had risen to defend Jackson.
Ellis’ speech was described by social media commenters as being tantamount to victim blaming.
In addition, it was also alleged that the Bishops’ Administration had fostered Jackson’s actions by brushing aside previous reports made by students.
The comments sparked protests amongst private citizens, but notably, a few students of the high school held protests of their own, in support of their headmistress.
In a joint statement issued yesterday, the Chapter Presidents of the Bishops’ High School Alumni Association commended the ministry for its swift investigation commended the Ministry of Education for its “swift action” and noted that they would continue to follow the investigations to ensure the matter is “prosecuted vigorously by the law.”
“Our immediate and over-riding concern however, is to the current student body of the school who have all in some manner been traumatized (and stigmatized) by this matter. Our message to them is this: 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,” they, however, added.
“It cannot be stressed enough that we do not feel confident that the children who have been made to feel unsafe and traumatized, 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…We quite simply do not thing that the Ministry of Education has gone far enough. Ultimately, we only want what’s best for the students at Bishops’ High School,” they said, before calling for the independent investigation.
It was further related that the alumni associations, in collaboration with concerned members bearing expertise in the fields of psychology, child welfare, social work and law, are working to ensure that there is no recurrence of a similar situation at the institution. It was said that recommendations regarding harassment, sexual abuse and bullying are currently being coordinated in the hopes of these measures being adopted by the school.
“The outpouring of emotion that this incident has evoked from the alumni body and other concerned citizens, has been truly inspiring. It shows that we all want to do 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. Though there are varying and sometimes heated opinions on how we get there, the message is clear: we want this to end now; those responsible prosecuted; and this to never happen again,” the statement added.