Bishop’s Sexual Saga—The Principal or the Principle? – By Yvonne Sam

Bishop’s Sexual Saga—The Principal or the Principle?

By Yvonne Sam

Justice should never be contingent on who owns the crime scene.

Although teaching is a fulfilling occupation that has its rewards and challenges, in schools today teachers face more than educational challenges.Teachers are in an exclusive position of trust, care, authority and influence with their students which means that there is an implicit power imbalance between teacher and students.     

When a teacher misuses this power imbalance in a manner that compromises the welfare of a student then professional boundaries have been breached. As most teachers will recognize, some conduct will clearly breach those boundaries, and their actions will be measured against a higher standard than that of other individuals.

Now that Guyana is facing her own homemade Weinbergesque type saga, in the form of  accusations of grooming and inappropriate sexual behavior against Bishops High School teacher Coen Jackson, it is blatantly apparent that both the school principal Winifred Ellis and the schoolprinciples are not insynch.  How aware was she of his professional comportment, especially his   manner of interaction with the students?  Who was responsible for evaluating the teacher?  Were there any previous complaints made against him?  Of what nature and how were they handled?

Accusations state that over the last ten years,the said teacher has been grooming female students who were in his classes, and then moving in for the sexual kill once they had attained the age of 18 years, which is the age of consent in Guyana.

The Sex Offences Act 2010 of Guyana states that “any person who is in a position of trust in an educational institution (Section 19, 1(c)) and engages in penetrative sex with a child under the age of 18 (Section 18, 1) is liable under 18, 3 (a) to “on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for life.” This Act amended by Act 2 of 2013 strengthened the Sexual Offences Act Chapter 8:03 by including the act of grooming of children for sexual activity.  The teacher converted the hallowed halls of one of the most prestigious secondary institutions into his base of operations, and carried out a decade of unhindered, undisturbed and unnoticed reeking of sexual havoc.As if to add further insult to injury, and with flagrant disregard for existing emotions in victims of sex crime the Headmistress in a diatribe during assembly, is quoted as calling the female students slack and loose. She has also reportedly castigated female students for not defending the teacher against the sex accusations, even in the face of current institutional under-staffing.

Such an approach not only smacks of insensitivity and utter complicity, but also promotes the type of culture that is so prevalent today, where the majority of victims of sex crimes are reluctant to come forward to seek justice against the perpetrators.  The Principal should be held equally responsible in this situation as she failed to protect those in her care.

On a somewhat dissimilar note, but nevertheless pertinent to the welfare of minors,  now- retired Queens College Principal Freidel Isaacs on October 29, 2010 received a letter from the then Permanent Secretary Pulandar Kandhi informing her of the results of the Gopaul inquiry.  The letter read thus: “…it is concluded that (in) your conduct as Headmistress of the Queen’s College you failed to take the necessary actions expected of a Senior Manager with the responsibility for children’s welfare. As such, you are guilty of dereliction of duty and that your tenure as Head of a Senior Secondary School comes to an end with immediate effect, Friday, October 29, 2010.”

In the letter which formed part of her affidavit, she was also advised that under the PC Act of 1990 she was demoted to Graduate Deputy Headmistress Grade (A). The mangled body of 16 year old Neesa Gopaul, student of Queens College was found stuffed in a suitcase at the now abandoned Emerald Tower Resort on the Soesdyke/ Linden Highway.

According to Dr. Melissa Ifill, the former President of the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) the predatory behavior and inappropriate mannerisms of the embattled Bishop’s High School teacher was also brought to her attention of Dr. Melissa Ifill, via a concerned mother. She even advised that the School Administration be made immediately aware but further stated that no action was ever taken against the teacher. Seemingly no one was interested in ensuring a follow-up?  Was the crime not worth the time?  Or the fact did not support the act?

The teacher had previously taught at the following schools: Guyana Technical Institute, the Business School, School of the Nations, the Georgetown Technical Institute, Leonora Technical Institute, and Mae’s.” Could the behavior for which he now stands accused be corroborated by either Staff or pupils at these school, for he has certainly run the gamut of schools in the Georgetown area?

I remain a firm believer in siting back and allowing justice to run its course, and that in the eyes of the law an individual is innocent until proven otherwise. Nevertheless along the way certain issues beggars careful scrutiny, as in this case principles were trampled on and disregarded, by principled people in principal positions. Clearly the teacher had his way, the principal had her say, and the females were made to pay.

Also read:

Reporting sexual assault in schools: the principle, not the principal.

 

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Comments

  • Francis Quamina Farrier  On December 21, 2017 at 11:03 am

    Ms Yvonne Sam, I totally agree with what you have written here.I can tell you that when I first heard this story, I said that it is fortunate for that teacher that it did not happen during the time when my two daughters were students at the Bishops’ High School. The award of “The Bishops’ High School Parent of the Year” was bestowed on me in 1987.

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