Monday 14 October, 2019

Teachers sexting, sexually harassing students

Teaching Service Commission Member Joanne Joseph-Hannays peaks during a Joint Select Committee meeting inquiring into sexual harassment by teachers against students.

Teaching Service Commission Member Joanne Joseph-Hannays peaks during a Joint Select Committee meeting inquiring into sexual harassment by teachers against students.

Teachers texting explicit images to students, touching the genitals of students and homosexual acts with students are some of the instances of sexual misconduct and harassment that the Teaching Service Commission has investigated over the past five years.

Between 2014 to 2019, 33 such instances were recorded by the Commission, according to its Chairman Dr Fazal Ali.

Speaking during a Joint Select Committee meeting inquiring into sexual harassment by teachers against students, Ali gave graphic details of some of the reports the Commission had received.

He said he had seen text messages where teachers were questioning students whether their parents were at home and were sending "images of their body parts'  to the students and asking for feedback.

There have been cases of teachers in primary schools touching and squeezing male students genitals and commenting on the size, Ali said.

Not all cases were perpetrated by teachers as some involved non-teaching staff and maxi taxi drivers. Some incidents involved teachers sexually harassing other teachers.

From 2014 to 2019, the Commission received 21 reports of sexual misconduct and harassment perpetrated by male teachers against female students; 4 reports of male teachers against male students; 1 report of a female teacher against a female student; 2 reports of female teachers against male students ,1 report of a female teacher against a class of male and female students; 1 non teacher against a female student and 3 male teachers against female teachers.

But despite receiving these reports, Ali said none of the teachers have been disciplined because of failure to find them guilty at a tribunal level. Ali said there has only been a 2 per cent rate in bringing the complaints to a resolution. 

He said this was because parents are reluctant to have their children relive the experience and give evidence at the tribunal so the Commission is forced to reinstate the teachers. 

“Once it fails at the tribunal level, we have no choice but to reinstate the teacher at the school," said member of the Commission Joanne Joseph-Hannays.

Even in the one case where a teacher was found guilty in the Magistrate's Court, the Commission has been unable to dismiss the teacher because of the Court's failure to provide a copy of the transcript of the case to the Commission, Ali said.

Joseph-Hannays noted that sexual harassment of students by teachers is not only a matter to be investigated by the Ministry of Education and the Teaching Service Commission but is also a criminal matter that must involve the police. But she said, in many cases, the parents or school officials fail to report the matter to the police. 

She suggested that once these matters are reported to the police, the perpetrator should be charged under the Child Act where the penalties are more severe.

President of the National Parent/Teacher Association (NPTA) Raffiena Ali-Boodoosingh added that while there are acts of sexual harassment and misconduct perpetrated by teachers against students, students are also engaging in such behaviour amongst themselves.

She said the NPTA had received reports from parents and students of homosexual acts between boys in schools and other inappropriate behaviour.

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