By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Ministry of Education is investigating whether the three boys who have been accused of sexual misconduct involving a young girl at a public primary school were left unsupervised at the time of the reported incident.
Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald told The Tribune that he has asked the director of education to meet with the school’s principal and the district superintendent to determine whether there was neglect on the part of any school official.
His comments came a day after the ministry released a statement saying that allegations of sexual misconduct at the school were discovered by a guidance counsellor who was reviewing “appropriate touching” in a family life lesson.
“I have asked for an investigation to determine under what circumstances these kids were left unattended to see whether or not there are gaps in our school system throughout the day that leaves kids unattended and if that needs to be addressed or if this was an isolated case,” Mr Fitzgerald said after leaving a Cabinet meeting.
“The director will report to me when the investigations are complete with recommendations as to how we can ensure that this doesn’t happen again. This ordeal raises questions about the fact that in our society, with the digital age and technology, our kids are just exposed to so much out there.
“Unfortunately, a lot of times they are unsupervised on these devices and they have access to pornographic websites where they are unable to, at their age, understand the complexity of what they are watching. Most times, they act out what they see. Unfortunately this happens a lot in primary schools, not just government primary schools but in private primary schools.”
Mr Fitzgerald said as adults and parents “we need to do a better job monitoring our children” and letting them know that “this is not right.”
He added: “This incident came to light because during a family life discussion on appropriate and inappropriate touching, one of the (children) involved in this matter came forward and spoke about the inappropriate touching that occurred. That then alerted the officials to go and investigate further.
“All of the relevant agencies were called in to deal with that matter, we treated this very seriously. We moved very quickly to call in the police, call in Social Services and call in our psychologist. There is protocol to be followed and (it was) followed in this matter. This is an unfortunate event that occurred, but at the end of the day this is a microcosm of our society. The school is a microcosm of our society and these things happen.”
When contacted for comment, acting President of the Bahamas Union of Teachers Zane Lightbourne said he is “more than positive” that none of his members were negligent in their duties on the day in question.
Ministry officials said they have withheld the name of the school to protect the students involved.