(PRESS RELEASE) – On November 10th 2017, we celebrated the International day for the rights of children. The recognition of this day draws upon the importance of Children’s rights and their right to grow in environments that are free from violence and the fear of violence.
However, even now, children have remained victims to domestic violence and various forms of violence within their schools. These forms of violence have continued to raise pertinent questions on whether corporal punishment should be abolished within schools and homes.
In schools, sexual involvement of a staff person with any student, regardless of age, is likely to be prohibited by school policy, teacher registration rules, and sometimes also by law.
Sexual activity is common among children and especially among adolescents, and is rarely harmful. It is usually considered sexually abusive when there is a significant age-gap (usually 3-5 years), when it involves violence, aggression, or undue pressure, or when it occurs despite the unwillingness of one or more of those involved. A clear grasp of the problem is the starting point for effective prevention.
In schools, the most likely problem will be abuse among students themselves. This is because there will usually be many more students than staff, and particularly in high schools because many students will have reached or be approaching puberty and will not yet have established adequate behavioural controls.
Sexual teasing, bullying and ‘initiations’ have historically been common in schools and other youth-oriented organisations. Abuse of a student by a known adult is the next most likely problem. Both the opportunity and the conditions are greatest for those adults whose roles involve sustained close involvement with students, particularly those that involve care of especially vulnerable students (e.g. marginalised, maltreated or disabled children), and those that involve emotional or physical intimacy (e.g. counselling, pastoral, nursing, or coaching roles).
Abuse of a student by a school visitor or passer-by is probably least likely, though perhaps the most dangerous because of possible abduction and physical harm. It is important to avoid stereotyped conceptions of the problem. Children are much more likely to be abused by someone they already have a close relationship with than by a stranger.
It is possible that a determined serial abuser may surreptitiously seek employment or other involvement in the school in order to create opportunities to abuse, but it is probably much more likely that abuse-related motivations arise for the first time during the course of the potential abuser’s involvement with a particular child or children.
Felicia Dujon, president of the Caribbean Mentorship Institute and Children’s rights advocate states that though many Caribbean governments have seen the need to revise the education and family act to ensure that children`s rights are not violated by their parents, guardians, caretakers and teachers, many citizens are still of the belief that corporal punishment is a viable strategy to discipline children. Yet, as research has shown, we have seen the psychological and physical consequences of such actions when directed towards children. These include but are not limited to depression, suicide, violent outbursts, low self esteem and poor academic development.
Another concern is the sexual grooming by teachers of students, some of whom are minors. Such violations are usually under-investigated as victims may fear the repercussions and consequences for sharing their experiences.
Dujon adds that “we are aware and have dealt with cases where children are being sexually assaulted and groomed by their teachers. This is an awkward problem as victims may not want to come forward as they fear that they will be expelled or removed from their schools.
It is a very delicate situation, and we must educate all our students that it is their right to have a learning environment which is free from fear and violence. Our teachers should honor their roles as educators and protectors. They should remember that the future of these children are in their hands and any form of sexual abuse can hinder the growth of these children.
Dujon further adds that Ministers of Education should implement specific guidelines to schools and principals on how sexual violations should be dealt with. In addition, a specially tailored sexual harassment policy should be implemented to protect students who are over the age of consent.“