There has been an apparent absence of any clear process of dealing with the complaints of BHS students

Dear Editor,

First of all, I’d like to make a correction to reporting in both papers Stabroek News and Kaieteur News that I brought the issue of Mr Jackson to the attention of the Chief Education Officer five months ago.  This is incorrect.  I stated that I first heard of Mr Jackson’s activities at the school five months ago, and from that point onward more information came forward that verified what I had initially heard.

I see that there is the repeated assertion that Mr Jackson is being denied due process on this issue because of the publicity surrounding it.  The reality is that having satisfied myself – as someone with official responsibilities and with significant journalistic experience – that Mr Jackson presented a clear and present danger to the young women at Bishops’ among whom is a relative of mine, I could not, with a clear conscience, allow that to continue.

I called the principal Ms Ellis on the 8th of November, on the advice of past students of Bishops’, registering my concerns and asking that she look into it.  A week later, the only progress was that she had learnt nothing about a situation that almost every student who has passed through Bishops’ within the past ten years and whom I’ve spoken to, knows about.  Her only action was to inform Jackson that the accusation was made against him.

I understand that Mr Jackson, learning of those allegations proceeded to contact several of his past students saying that he had learnt that someone influential was seeking to find out the extent of what they might have told someone, and to convince them not to testify in any investigation some of whom had confided in me directly, and who had confided in others who then relayed that information to me.  I advised them to record any future contact with him, whether via Facebook, text message or phone call. I contacted Chief Education Officer, Mr Marcel Hutson and advised him of the situation on Thursday, 16th, and he immediately booked to meet with me on Monday, 20th, since he would be out for the weekend.

On Friday, the 17th, I put up a general status on social media about investigating a predatory business teacher at a senior secondary school and it was others who associated Mr Jackson with that status. That is something that should speak for itself.  Over the weekend of the 18th  and 19th, more people came forward with stories of his sexualization of classes, his constant monitoring of young students close to their 16th birthday, sexual propositions and inappropriate touching, stalking of students and sexual relationships.  Several people even angrily exhorted me to name the person I was referring to, something I refused to do until I had handed in my letter to the CEO on Monday.

On Friday afternoon, I was contacted by Jerome Khan, purporting to be an unofficial mediator between myself and Mr Jackson on what he claimed to be a personal dispute that escalated online. I informed Mr Khan that I did not out Mr Jackson although I was referring to him, and that there was no personal dispute, merely a matter of principle of reporting the teacher’s behaviour.  Mr Khan enquired what is it that I wanted, and whether Mr Jackson’s resignation from the school would suffice. My response to this was that while my primary intention is to get Jackson out of the school, I believe that he had committed multiple offences under the Sexual Offences Act and I could not guarantee that legal steps would not be taken against him.  I offered to e-mail Khan with evidence of the teacher’s behaviour, and he advised that I send it to his personal e-mail, not that of his law office.  He texted the e-mail that same afternoon, proof I needed to corroborate my narrative should the need arise.

On Monday, I submitted my letter to the CEO Mr Hutson and discussed with him the parameters of the case.  I immediately thereafter submitted a copy to head of the Child Care and Protection Agency, Ms Ann Greene.  I want to make it clear that both officers respected my submission and acted swiftly in response.  Both needed to be commended on this.

Considering that the school administration had a history of suppressing complaints against Mr Jackson, and considering that he continued to have access to students, and considering that the protocol seemed to be to inform him of an accusation before any actual investigation, I decided to release my letter to Mr Hutson to the press, precisely to ensure that there was public awareness of a dangerous problem in a public school that was systematically not being addressed.  If I am proven wrong in this, I will publicly resign my post as a public officer.

It is critical that the press and everyone dealing with this issue understand that obfuscation only benefits those who are in fact guilty of something, whether the commission of an act or the covering up of it.  While I have no reason to disbelieve Guyana Teachers Union General-Secretary Mark Lyte’s claim that the union was never tasked with defending Mr Jackson, I have no doubt that my complaint was not the first, merely the first to be acted upon.  It is curious that even now Jackson did not go to the union, choosing instead to host a press conference with three attorneys, during which he claimed that he took a leave of absence when it was subsequently learnt that he was in fact sent on administrative leave.

The task for investigators is to find out what happened to these complaints, some going as far back as 2011.  How were they treated and by whom? If there has been a failure of due process in this, it begins with the apparent absence of any clear process of respecting, recording and processing complaints by students of the school, or even parents, against teachers with predatory behaviour.  The question is, why?

Yours faithfully,
Ruel Johnson

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