Bishops’ sex scandal: Ministry says HM’s behaviour in breach of Education Act

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… HM to be reprimanded, and offer apology

… Investigation against economics teacher handed over to Police

The Education Ministry has concluded their investigations into the alleged misconduct of the  Head Mistress (HM) attached to the Bishops’ High School (BHS), Winifred Ellis following the surfacing of a recording where the woman was heard berating female students.

Winifred Ellis

According to a press statement issued today (Friday), Ellis was found culpable of breaching the regulations under the Education Act 39:01 section 35 “Inappropriate behaviour by teachers in school” which it said is liable to a first warning.

This conclusion was arrived at by a Committee tasked with handling the matter. This group consisted of the Chief Education Officer (CEO) Marcel Hutson (Chief and final arbiter), Legal Advisor to the Ministry of Education- Kelly-Ann Payne-Hercules, Guyana Teachers Union Representative Lance Baptiste, President of the Bishops’ High School Board Mrs Ruth Lee, President of The Bishops’ High School Parent Teachers Association (PTA) – Mrs Sondra Lowe, National PTA Co-ordinator- Ms Nadia Hollingsworth, Co-ordinator  of Health and Family Life Education (HFLE)- Ms Coleen King-Cameron and the two head prefects of the BHS.

“At the consultation, a recording of the Headmistress’ address to the students was presented and the Head Mistress had an opportunity to provide an explanation. Based on the evidence presented and the explanation proffered, the committee found the Headmistress culpable,” the statement read.

Further, it was recommended by the Committee that “the Headmistress be reprimanded,” and “an apology be offered to the students and teachers.”

Moreover, the Education Ministry was advised to “provide training and support to teachers on how to deal with children on sexual issues” and “to provide counseling support which was requested by the students.”

Meanwhile, the Ministry has also indicated that their investigation regarding the alleged sexual molestation of students by economics teacher, Coen Jackson has concluded and the matter has been handed over to the Guyana Police Force.

It was previously reported that over the course of the latter part of last week, allegations of Jackson’s grooming and sexual molestation of several teenagers surfaced.

A formal complaint against the teacher of over 15 years, was made to the Ministry of Education over the weekend and was addressed to the Minister of Education, Nicolette Henry; the Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan; the Minister of Social Protection, Amna Ally; the Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence; the Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams; and the Minister of Social Cohesion, Dr George Norton.

Since then, Chief Education Officer, Marcel Hutson has informed the media that an investigation has been launched.

On Monday last, the Head Teacher of the Bishop’s High School reportedly called a general assembly where she sought to berate female students for not coming to the defence of the alleged predator.

In a leaked recording of a speech purported to be that of Ellis, the Head Mistress was heard describing the teenagers as “slack” and “loose” and even demanding that they “step out of the line” if they’ve ever been “approached, propositioned and interfered” with by Jackson.

Some of the protestors in front of the BHS on Tuesday last

This resulted in the first picketing exercise for the Head teacher’s removal, which was conducted on Tuesday in front of the BHS. Other subsequent picketing exercises calling for the HM’s removal were held in front of the BHS and the Education Ministry respectively.

In the presence of his Attorneys- Jerome Khan, Priyanka Sookraj and Siand Dhurjan- Bishops High School economics teacher, Coen Jackson, broke his silence on the allegations against him which claimed that he abused his position of trust as a teacher and groomed female, and some male, students for sexual activity.

At a press conference on Tuesday, in the Office of Attorney Jerome Khan, Jackson denied the allegations made against him.

He said that his complainant, “has created this caricature of me as a beast, as a predator. There are many students that could testify on my behalf. My professional conduct, my ability in the subjects that I teach, the performance record of me as a teacher is there. I have contributed to the COI on education…I have a track record of high performance”.

However, Jackson did admit to dating two former students of the Bishops High School.

He explained that he is currently in a relationship with a 21-year old former student and has been involved with the young woman for a number of years.

Jackson (second from left) flanked by his attorneys

Jackson posited his belief that the matter was only brought to light by a notorious character in society only after he [complainant] became engaged in an intimate relationship with a former student of the Bishop’s High School, with whom Jackson had been involved with.

“In the process I have been accused, prosecuted and convicted in the court of public opinion…I wish to deny the accusation being peddled by [ the complainant] and believe that he is using this as a basis for his self promotion, disregarding what damage is done to many, many persons profession, reputation and character,” he said. (Ramona Luthi)

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