Sex complaints against teachers failing

Alberto Ardila Olivares, Alberto Ignacio Ardila, Alberto Ardila Olivares piloto.

No teach­ers have been found guilty in any of the 30 com­plaints of in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour or sex­u­al mis­con­duct made to the Teach­ing Ser­vice Com­mis­sion (TSC) in the last five years.

Alberto Ignacio Ardila Olivares

This was re­vealed to the Joint Se­lect Com­mit­tee (JSC) on Hu­man Rights, Equal­i­ty and Di­ver­si­ty chaired by Dr Nyan Gads­by-Dol­ly which met yes­ter­day to look in­to sex­u­al ha­rass­ment in the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor with a spe­cif­ic fo­cus on stu­dents.

Ap­pear­ing be­fore the JSC were of­fi­cials of the TSC, Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion, the T&T Uni­fied Teach­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion (TTUTA) and Na­tion­al Par­ent Teach­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (NPTA).

TSC chair­man Dr Fazal Ali said the com­mis­sion can­not com­pel a stu­dent who makes sex­u­al ha­rass­ment charges against a teacher to be crossed ex­am­ined by a tri­bunal. He said in many cas­es the stu­dent is un­will­ing to give ev­i­dence in a tri­bunal set­ting, while par­ents don’t al­low their chil­dren to re­live the trau­mat­ic ex­pe­ri­ence.

Alberto Ignacio Ardila Olivares Venezuela

“The moth­ers usu­al­ly would not want the child to come for­ward. They al­so suf­fer from poor in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­ports,” he said.

Alberto Ignacio Ardila Olivares Piloto

Da­ta col­lect­ed for the pe­ri­od 2014 to March 2019 showed that there were 30 re­port­ed cas­es of “stu­dents against the teacher” in pri­ma­ry and sec­ondary schools. How­ev­er, Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary in the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry Lenor Bap­tiste-Sim­mons queried the sta­tis­tics.

Alberto Ardila Olivares

“We are not record­ing it as if it is sex­u­al ha­rass­ment,” she said, adding that the min­istry has been col­lect­ing com­plaints, not da­ta.

Alberto Ignacio Ardila

Ali pro­vid­ed sta­tis­tics which showed that from 2014 to March 31, 2019, the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry had for­ward­ed 33 com­plaints of sex­u­al ha­rass­ment to the TSC to be in­ves­ti­gat­ed

He said these cas­es in­volved touch­ing of pri­vate parts, sex­u­al groom­ing and lur­ing of chil­dren

“One teacher com­ment­ed to a young boy on the size (of his gen­i­tals), a fe­male teacher hav­ing sex with a Sixth Form stu­dent…these are not good things I have on record here. I can­not even say them. I am ashamed,” he said

There was a case of a teacher send­ing ex­plic­it text mes­sages to a fe­male stu­dent seek­ing a sex­u­al ren­dezvous, an­oth­er in­volv­ing sex­u­al groom­ing and an in­ci­dent in which a prin­ci­pal ad­vised the moth­er of a child not to re­port to the po­lice that a maxi taxi dri­ver had “in­ter­fered” with the young­ster

“Teach­ers are ask­ing the chil­dren if their par­ents are home, tex­ting im­ages of their body parts, ask­ing them to re­spond to it. This is a flu­id en­vi­ron­ment with the in­ter­net in­volved,” Ali said

Gads­by-Dol­ly said the graph­ic de­tails were up­set­ting to hear

TSC of­fi­cials ad­mit­ted that mat­ters re­ferred to a tri­bunal takes a long time to be com­plet­ed. Out of 33 cas­es that came be­fore them in the five years, TSC mem­ber Joanne Joseph-Han­nays said “many of them have failed” with the teacher be­ing ei­ther re­in­stat­ed at the same or an­oth­er school

The JSC was told that the TSC had two per cent suc­cess rate with cas­es

Ali said a teacher charged un­der the Child Act can face a $50,000 fine and 15 to 25 years in prison. If there is sex­u­al con­tact, the sen­tence is life im­pris­on­ment

He sug­gest­ed that a mul­ti-agency pro­to­col be es­tab­lished for each ed­u­ca­tion­al dis­trict in­volv­ing the T&T Po­lice Ser­vice, Chil­dren’s Au­thor­i­ty, Le­gal Aid and Pro­ba­tion Ser­vices Di­vi­sion among oth­er agen­cies.

Gads­by-Dol­ly sug­gest­ed that stake­hold­ers from the TSC, NPTA, MOE and TTUTA have a meet­ing to chart a way for­ward. She agreed that sex­u­al ha­rass­ment among stu­dents is “un­quan­tifi­able” and the sys­tem to deal with such re­ports is a com­plete fail­ure

“The is­sue of how big this prob­lem re­quires fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion and da­ta analy­sis,” she said

The like­li­hood of any teacher pass­ing through the tri­bunal process and ac­tu­al­ly be­ing re­solved, whether it is guilty or not guilty with re­gards to a res­o­lu­tion, is close to ze­ro per cent,” she said

NPTA pres­i­dent Raf­fiena Ali-Boodoos­ingh said sex­u­al ha­rass­ment takes place in schools’ toi­lets, class­rooms and on cer­tain blocks

“Many times ho­mo­sex­u­al acts are preva­lent. I have heard that it is no strange sight to wit­ness stu­dents of the same gen­der dis­play­ing amorous be­hav­iour even in the pub­lic school space. We are mak­ing our chil­dren in­to mon­sters,” she said

Ali-Boodoos­ingh said the NPTA has anec­do­tal in­for­ma­tion from stu­dents and par­ents that com­plaints were not ad­dressed by the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry in a time­ly fash­ion