Bishops teacher accused of sexual grooming: Protesters accuse HM of ‘cover up,’ call for her removal

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-Implicated teacher denies allegations but admits to dating former students

By Ramona Luthi

Several persons including Child’s Rights Activist, Nicole Cole lined up holding placards in front of the Bishop’s High School (BHS) on Tuesday afternoon, calling for the removal of the school’s head teacher, Winifred Ellis who is accused of attempting to “cover up” allegations of sexual molestation involving a teacher of the institution, Coen Jackson.

Some of the protestors in front of the school

Shouting chants of “Let our children be children!,” “No more cover ups!,” “Ellis must go!,” and “Do not protect predators!,” the handful of people maintained that they will continue to protest for Ellis’ removal until action is taken.

However, shortly after their chants rang through Carmichael Street in front of the Sixth Form Educational Institution, students of the BHS were seen placing their own placards out of the windows.

Their signs read “Our HM did not fail us!” and “Think of our future #ThisAffectsUs.”

Nevertheless, this did not break the spirit of protesters who stood their ground, maintaining that the school’s Head Mistress (HM) needed to step down from her post.

“We just had the kids up there saying that their HM did not fail them and I think this says a lot about what will happen with this school and its mostly about protecting the reputation of the school rather than protecting the students,” Activist, Akola Thompson told the media.

Further, Child’s Rights Activist, Nicole Cole asserted that “no adult has the right to berate students.”

Nicole cole

Her assertion came on the heels of reports that after allegations against the economics teacher, Jackson surfaced on social media; Ellis called a general assembly where she allegedly proceeded to reprimand students for not coming to the implicated teacher’s defence, while reportedly describing them as “loose” and “slack.”

“I called for her to be removed since last night …because what she has done is to victimise the victim twice. I am a survivor of child sexual abuse. I don’t want to talk to her. The child in me became so scared even though I am an adult and I’m an activist fighting for the rights of children, women and citizens in Guyana” Cole said.

Other protesters who were identified as former students of the Bishop’s High School described the implicated former teacher as “socially aggressive” and known for “chastising rape victims.”

“I personally, was not ever taught by [Jackson] and I never had any reason to engage with him. I knew him after school. We’ve had several discussions on Facebook with regards to political discussions and so on, I can say that he was a very socially aggressive individual. He would partake in all sorts of [conversations] that would blame victims, people that spoke out about sexual harassment, he would chastise victims and try to downplay the effects of their abuse” a former student told the media.

Further, several calls were made for the Ministry of Education and the Child Care Protection Agency to step up and have the matter taken to the Police so that justice against the alleged sexual predator is served.

Over the course of the latter part of last week, allegations of Jackson’s grooming and sexual molestation of several teenagers while serving in the capacity of an economics teacher, took social media by storm.

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, while the Ministry of Social Protection issued a short statement outlining that it is “aware of the allegations leveled against a senior teacher at the Bishops High School. The matter is currently under investigations and the Ministry is actively involved in this process. The Ministry takes these complaints seriously and holds paramount the protection of our nation’s children.”

As news of the alleged sexual molestation implicating Jackson broke out on social media a number of past students reportedly came forward and related similar experiences.

Meanwhile, in the presence of his Attorneys- Jerome Khan, Priyanka Sookraj and Siand Dhurjan-  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.

Coen Jackson second from left flanked by his attorneys

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,” he said.

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 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.

Jackson and his attorneys noted that there have been several libelous statements made on social media and that they are monitoring them and will take further action soon.

The accused also indicated that he is open to any type of scrutiny by any government agency and or ministry.

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