Who would choose to leave their child in the hands of known perverts? So, what to do when it turns out trusted educators are far from what they appeared to be? That they are actually disguised wolves waiting to devour the innocents placed in their care!
That is the maddening reality for several parents of students at a Castries primary school, many of whom are still struggling to deal with incidents and the scarring effects on their children. Last month a physical education teacher at the school was charged with a 12-count indictment, inclusive of gross indecency and buggery charges.
It was hardly a matter that no one saw coming. In fact, parents had been airing to no avail their concerns about the particular teacher to the education ministry for some six years.
A well-placed source revealed details surrounding the first case that had been brought to the attention of the ministry by the school’s principal. A distraught parent had arranged a meeting with school staff in September 2011 at which the parent reported inappropriate behaviour on the part of the teacher in question: he called her son’s phone frequently, and had gone as far as taking him out without her consent. He’d returned the boy to his home without explanation, leading the family to question what had transpired during the time away from home. The young boy’s family demanded after the incident that the teacher desist from all communication with their son and his siblings, and that a full investigation be launched.
Years of suspicion were reawakened in 2016 with another allegation. In correspondence dated July 12, 2016 another parent reported that her son had gotten into trouble for inappropriate behaviour with a little girl, leading the parent to question what had led to his shockingly bad act. The boy alleged that he’d been molested by a teacher at his school. He had already moved on to secondary school at the time of the report. The matter was brought to the attention of the police.
The accused denied all allegations. The boy’s mother went on to provide more details: again, he’d called her son’s cell phone very often, which left her feeling uneasy. Her son also reported other lewd behaviour he’d witnessed involving two older boys at the school.
When reports of a sexual nature involving minors are made, how quickly does the education ministry respond? That was the underlying question posed to now removed Chief Education Officer Marcus Edward by a senior official in written correspondence on July 14, 2016 which recorded that no action had been taken in the two earlier cited matters. “Consequently, a third incident had surfaced,” as reported by the official.
The third report on June 2, 2017 was related by a teacher of the school. She’d reportedly witnessed the teacher in question leaning against a desk while two male students were “seemingly beneath the desk”. That particular encounter was relayed to the school principal, as well as the education ministry, in detail, to which the defence of the teacher in question had been that his shirt had gotten caught in the zipper of his pants and the young male students were simply trying to assist.
Hence his precarious position.
In light of the allegations, a parent of a child who had not been directly affected also wrote to the ministry to request that her son, who attended the school, not be left alone in the care of the teacher; neither should he be allowed to participate in school activities supervised solely by the teacher, nor accept from him gifts, food or money; or leave the school compound with the teacher, unless supervised by another teacher.
It wasn’t until 2017 that any real steps were taken in relation to an investigation, and the intervention of the Teaching Service Commission. On August 29, 2017 correspondence went out from the ministry requesting that the accused attend a meeting to discuss “reports received from the Principal . . . alleging inappropriate interaction between yourself and students of the said school”.
Several of the accusations levelled at the teacher in question came before the courts last month.
It was also announced in October by Education Minister Gale Rigobert that Marcus Edward, Chief Education Officer in the ministry of education during the period in question, has been removed, with his role currently being filled by Rufina Frederick, Deputy Chief Education Officer.