By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
BAHAMAS Union of Teachers President Belinda Wilson yesterday called for the Ministry of Education to immediately stop ‘violating’ the Employment Act by requiring expatriate teachers to be fingerprinted as part of its vetting process.
Mrs Wilson’s comments came after she claimed 15 teachers from CR Walker High School were bussed to the Criminal Detective Unit to be fingerprinted.
However, Director of Education Lionel Sands said fingerprinting was made a standard procedure for all expatriates seeking placement in the public education system in 2010. Mr Sands also said the teachers in question volunteered to be fingerprinted.
In a press release yesterday, Mrs Wilson demanded an apology from Mr Sands for ‘misleading’ the public and violating the rights of those teachers.
“The Bahamas Union of Teachers cries shame on the Director of Education who stated that fingerprinting is a part of the ‘vetting process’ and it is a requirement from the police. Teachers are not employed by the police force, the police do not have any authority to request fingerprints from any employees of the Ministry of Education and The fingerprinting was instigated and requested by the Department of Education and not the police,” the statement said.
“Therefore, the BUT is asking the Department of Education to cease and desist forthwith from violating the law and infringing on the rights of expatriate teachers. “Despite the Director’s explanation that only 20- 30 teachers were affected, it is much more, and it does not matter even if it was one. The union is calling on the Director of Education to take responsibility for this blatant violation of the Employment Act and correct it immediately.”
Speaking with the Tribune on Monday, Mr Sands said the vetting process for expatriate teachers was a crucial tool for the Ministry of Education as past shortfalls have resulted in hiring teachers who were sexual predators.
He said: “Since 2010 all persons seeking employment as a teacher and all those who have been teaching and seeking reemployment must be vetted before employment or reemployment is made. “Since 2008, we’ve had all these challenges with teachers and students, and so the ministry was concerned that it hired persons in the past with a checkered past and not exercising due diligence.
“So that’s our requirement,” he said, “The only way you can determine that someone is who they say they are is by having them fingerprinted. When the police ask Interpol to run the background check, they use that information.
“It may appear to be new to some, but the persons who require fingerprints right now are teachers who were employed with us and were not vetted before, their reemployment has come up and it must be done.”