Child protection training stepped up in schools

| 22/09/2016 | 13 Comments

(CNS): A group of over 170 teachers, deputy principals, counsellors and pastoral support staff from government schools have taken part in child protection training to help them recognise the indicators of abuse or neglect and learn how to respond and report abuse, the education ministry stated Thursday. Given a noticeable rise in the amount of cases now coming to court and the well-documented failings in some cases, public awareness of the need to be more open about the problem is increasing.

“Sexual abuse and neglect are real concerns that need to be addressed by the community, especially when the victims are our most innocent and vulnerable citizens – our children,” Education Minister Tara Rivers said in a release about the policies in schools that deal with the issue.

“The goal is to have all staff, including specialist teachers, assistants, librarians and executive officers, receive the Module 2 training of the Second Step Child Protection Unit before the end of the academic year,” she added.

The ministry’s child protection strategy is being updated and adapted to ensure schools are safe places and to make sure that the education ministry is using procedures to better screen out potential abusers and include child protection considerations. At least one alleged sex-offender currently going through the court system has been charged with offences on primary school children while he was a teacher’s aide at a government school.

Chief Officer for Education Christen Suckoo said, “Asking child protection questions in all employment interviews; having incoming staff sign acknowledging receipt and agreement to follow child protection policies; utilising the US Sex Offender Registry to screen applicants; continuing to use the UK Criminal Records Bureau check; and expanding the social media check are all part of the Ministry of Education’s efforts to protect our students.”

The ministry’s safe environment policy is aimed at preventing situations in which children are at an increased risk for abuse because of the physical characteristics of a building. This means ensuring classroom windows aren’t obscured, that there is bright lighting in all areas and adequate playground or non-classroom supervision in areas such as hallways and stairwells.

Schools should be regularly checked to make sure no unidentified people are on site and all visitors, volunteers, and contractors must sign in at the main office of schools and wear a visitor badge identifying them.

Officials said that the safeguarding policy outlines clear expectations for interactions between adults and children, explicitly identifying acceptable and appropriate behaviour for all adults working with children.

Secondary teachers already receive the mandatory ‘Darkness to Light’ training, and the latest course concerned the certificates for Modules 2 and 3 of the Second Step Child Protection Unit issued by the Committee for Children in the US.

The training was described as “revolutionary for education professionals” by the facilitator by Charmaine Miller, Acting Programme Coordinator at the Family Resource Centre. She explained that talking to kids about sexual abuse is one of the best ways to prevent it, but said parents may not know how to begin the conversation.

“The Ministry of Education has taken the initiative to train its educators so they can help kids learn personal safety skills at school. In a world where sexual abuse is so prevalent, understanding what types of physical behaviours are okay and not okay, and how to talk about behaviour that makes them uncomfortable or afraid are unfortunate but necessary discussions that need to be had with our young students. Teachers are being trained to do just that,” Miller stated.

The Ministry of Education partnered with The Family Resource Centre, the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre, the Special Needs Foundation and the Health Services Authority to conduct the training, which was organised by Camila Muniz Ferreira, the Ministry of Education’s Programme Manager for At-Risk Youth, and Barbara Peace-Ebanks, Senior School Improvement Officer and Child Protection Officer for the Department of Education Services.

The Ministry of Education would also like to thank Help for Children for covering a large portion of the costs of the Child Protection Unit materials used in this training.

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Comments (13)

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  1. Tsk tsk tsk says:

    Yes, some progress. I for one will push for child abuse awareness as long as I am able to. I hope to see many more articles like this.

  2. Veritas says:

    Even more importantly, there should a campaign targeting parents to emphasise that the welfare of their children is paramount, and rises far above any misguided beliefs that family members should be protected to avoid humiliation to them and their relatives.

    • Anonymous says:

      9:58 RCIPS tried that in 2007 when Angelique Howell was head of the FSU. It very quickly got buried and she was transferred. Let’s hope this time around the problem is not only recognised but properly addressed. Child abuse on these islands is a fact of life. It’s time to stamp it out and put those responsible where the belong – behind bars.

  3. Anonymous says:

    If this is being done, screen everyone, all Teachers, local and those from overseas, there is too much racism in these islands. Too much us vs them. If we claim to be a Christian society we should start acting as one and be fair across the board.

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is not enough!

    Make the Cayman Islands the last place on earth where anyone would want to commit crime against children.

    On October 1, 2012 FL law, HB 1355, “Protection of Vulnerable Persons” took effect. “Nation’s Toughest Child Sex Abuse Reporting Law Takes Effect Today in Florida”

    …The state embarks on a statewide kindergarten-based education program to help young children avoid the traps predators set.
    The law clarifies that all people have an obligation to report suspected sexual abuse of children, regardless of whether the suspected abuser is a parent, neighbor, friend or stranger.
    ..imposes a fine of up to $1 million on any public or private college or university whose administration or law enforcement agency willfully and knowingly fails to report child abuse that occurs on its campus, in any of its facilities, or at/during college or university-sponsored events and functions.

    And for your children’s sake SIGN The Petition that calls for sex case failings enquiry. Only 359 signatures collected as of this morning (the goal is 1000).

    If you are so afraid to sign under your real name it has an option to hide your name from being disclosed, share the link with your family and friends.

  5. Anonymous says:

    CNS please add this link to the above article.

    ” UNSPEAKABLE: Confronting child sexual abuse in the Cayman Islands (FULL)”

    Every educator, parent and governmental official must watch it. It must be mandatory for those in charge of children.

    Thank you

  6. Anonymous says:

    This isn’t a new or necessarily escalating problem, it’s just been under-reported and/or flatly ignored by the misogynist patriarchs that enjoy wielding this power. Violence and abuse against women and children is as old as the first settlers. The Crisis Center has been around for decades picking up the pieces that no other agency wanted to deal with. Glad there is finally some admission of educational shortcomings and people bothering to educate kids on what power they have to stop these violations. It is an important first step.

  7. Anonymous says:

    US screening? Who’s going to screen Jamaicans, Trinidadians, Guyanese??? Where did recent teachers charged/convicted of abuse come from? The Caribbean!

    How will parents have confidence that the teachers who abuse sexually AND emotionally are held accountable without waiting for several children to be hurt? What procedures are put in place to catch the teachers there now, who may be attending some of these very classes?

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