By Bibi Khatoon
Minister of Education, Nicolette Henry today disclosed that a decision was taken by her Ministry to send Coen Jackson, the Bishops’ High School Economics and Business Teacher on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into allegations that he engages in sexual activities with his students.
Jackson, 39, however, told a news conference on Tuesday, November 21, that he took a “leave of absence” from the school to allow the investigation to run its course.
But Minister Henry told reporters on the sidelines of an event today at the Ministry of Education that, “as the Ministry, we would have taken a decision to send the teacher who these allegations were made against, on administrative leave so that due process can be observed while an investigation is being carried out.”
Minister Henry said she met with the Welfare Department and the Ministry of Social Protection on Tuesday regarding the issue.
While past students of the school today continued a protest action calling for the resignation of the Head Teacher, Winifred Ellis who reportedly chastised female students at the public school for not “defending” the embattled teacher, the Minister said a decision has not yet been taken on how the Head Teacher will be dealt with.
“As it turns out, I’m going to be briefed on what they’re going to be doing with her, whether its censure or something more serious based on the nature of what we’re dealing with,” she told reporters.
News Room today spoke with the protestors who related that they will continue their protest action until something is done about the Head Teacher. Minister Henry admitted that although the method used by the Head Teacher to deal with the matter “may not have been the goal standard or ideal way, the Chief Education Officer has to make a judgment call in keeping with rules and regulation.”
Asked whether there will be widespread investigations into misconduct at other schools, the Minister said only if the need arises. She, however, noted that the ongoing controversy speaks to the need for more education of students and teachers on the issue.
“If this is a case of sexual misconduct or harassment, both perpetrators and victims need certain awareness, particularly children because as you understand, their age makes them vulnerable and therefore the school system, we will have to ensure they are aware how to report, what to accept, what not to accept—these are part of education that should accompany mainstream and academic education,” the Education Minister said.
She further noted that in 2018, the Ministry will be embarking on a programme which will see every school being able to have access to counsellors through mobile services, as there are not sufficient counsellors to place at each school.