The Bishops’ High School Old Students Association (BHSOSA) has put in place mechanisms to train the school’s teaching staff to deal with sexual abuse cases, and has embarked on developing an anonymous reporting system for victims.
During an extraordinary general meeting on Tuesday, the alumni, along with Sixth Form students of the school, reportedly met to discuss the way forward following allegations of sexual abuse by one of its teachers, Coen Jackson, who is now the subject of a police probe. Jackson has denied the allegations.
According to a statement issued yesterday by the BHSOSA, the consultation bore a number of solutions, including a collaboration with the Childcare and Protection Agency to have staff receive training in the protocols for dealing with all types of abuse, with the aim of increasing the capabilities of teachers to detect cases and report allegations and incidents of abuse and harassment. It was said that a recommendation was also made to “employ child protection and related policies” in the school.
It was stated that an anonymous reporting system is currently being developed by the school’s alumni.
Furthermore, a decision was made for general sensitisation sessions to be held to inform students on the topic of abuse and the process to report such acts. Sessions specifically targeting males will also be held, to sensitise them about sexual harassment, abuse, gender equality and ethics. These sessions will begin next week.
Additionally, mentoring and counselling sessions for psychological trauma are to be “implemented with immediate effect.” These will be available to both students and teachers.
In the statement, the BHSOSA also recommended that the Ministry of Education commissions an inquiry into “the issue of sexual misconduct, abuse and subsequent reporting in the school and that policies and protocols are put in place to ensure that such behaviour is eliminated and students are encouraged to report such matters without fear of ridicule or repercussion.”
Ridicule and abuse
The association also pledged its support to the students and teachers of Bishops,’ declaring that it would do whatever is in its power to ensure that they are protected and remain in a safe environment.
The statement alluded to complaints from students and teachers that they have been subjected to “ridicule and abuse” by members of the public while traveling to and from school. They condemned the behaviour, and stated that the Guyana Police Force and other relevant authorities should take the necessary steps to protect students and teachers from “such negative behaviour.”
“BHSOSA acknowledges the unwavering support and patience of concerned persons during this very challenging period and implores the public to refrain from acts of aggression and hostility towards the students and teachers… Further, we are requesting that any protests should be held away from the school. This is to enable students to receive instructions in an environment that is conducive to learning,” it urged.