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  • The Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA), is imploring communities to desist from protecting sexual predators who target children.
  • Children’s Advocate, Diahann Gordon Harrison said predators should not be protected in the quest to preserve reputations of schools, or the “good names” of individuals.
  • She disclosed that since the start of 2014, her Office has received increased reports of teaching professionals having sexual interactions with students.

The Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA), is imploring communities to desist from protecting sexual predators who target children.

Children’s Advocate, Diahann Gordon Harrison said predators should not be protected in the quest to preserve reputations of schools, or the “good names” of individuals.

Mrs. Gordon Harrison made the plea while addressing an awards function for teachers, hosted by Kingston Bookshop, at the Terra Nova Hotel, in Kingston on May 6.

She disclosed that since the start of 2014, her Office has received increased reports of teaching professionals having sexual interactions with students.

The Children’s Advocate stated that if the standing of institutions and persons associated with them are deemed more important than reporting adults who are engaged in sexual acts with children, investigations carried out by the OCA cannot be effective.

“If this is the response of the well-thinking among us, how will it be possible to conduct investigations which can be used to hold people accountable? Who will make the report? Who will give a statement? Are these persons standing up for what is right, or are they merely passing the buck and giving lip service when they say that children are precious and deserved to be protected?” she questioned.

Mrs. Gordon Harrison added that justice will not be effectively served without the participation of everyone.

“It is people who see the wrong which afflicts our children and come forward with information that can cause the various state agencies to do something about the situation. If you know it is happening, or, as our law says, even suspect it, but because of fear, disinterest or sympathy for the perpetrator, you fail to do anything, you are part of the problem,” the Children’s Advocate asserted.

She pointed out that there are reports of teachers sending suggestive and provocative text messages to their students. “We are seeing teaching professionals who are reported as actually engaging in physical sexual contact with their students,” she remarked.

For the last quarter of 2013, the OCA received reports of 14 cases of sexual interference with children reportedly by teaching professionals. For the period January to April 2014, 22 reports were made to the Office, of sexual impropriety perpetrated against students by teaching professionals, she informed.

The Children’s Advocate said it is alarming that when the OCA sets out to conduct the necessary investigations, “we sometimes get comments from other teachers on staff that everybody knows, but they are not willing to say anything”.

She said further, that the Office has found that in some instances, Principals decide to “quash” the matter because the reputation of the school or teachers is at stake. Responding on behalf of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), President Dr. Mark Nicely said the JTA is “deeply concerned over the reports”.

He said the JTA does not in any way support educators involved in this type of behaviour.

“We want the cases to be reported. I encourage my own colleagues not to hide anything that they know or suspect, but to report it, and they will be doing a great justice to the children. Where persons are guilty, the full extent of the law has to be applied,” Dr. Nicely said.