Sat | Feb 24, 2018

Schoolgirl stalkers! - Male teachers flee the classroom to escape female student predators

Published:Sunday | January 3, 2016 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
"The risks are great for a young male teacher."
Clayton Hall
Ruel Reid

Across the island, several schoolgirls, some as young as 14, have been setting their sights on the few male teachers left in the system, sending explicit photographs and aggressively trying to entice the authority figures into sexual relationships with them.

"The risks are great for a young male teacher," admitted Clayton Hall, former president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA).

"I had to come to the defence of a teacher recently after he received sexually explicit photos from a student. The child's parents saw the photos and called in the police, and officers from CISOCA (the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse) came in," said Hall.

"The parents believed he was soliciting their child. Luckily for him, a series of reprimands were part of the messaging thread and those proved to be his get-out-of-jail card. Without it, he would have been arrested," added Hall.

But the woes of the young male teacher did not end there, as the police threatened him with prosecution under the Cybercrimes Act, which provides criminal sanction for the misuse of computer systems or data and the abuse of electronic means of completing transactions.

He was also warned for prosecution under the Child Care and Protection Act, which requires adults to report to the relevant authorities children in need of care and protection.

"In this dispensation, I have had male teachers complain to me about the situation. It becomes very problematic for the teacher when you look at the Child Care and Protection Act, which considers you guilty until you can prove otherwise," said Hall.

He noted that if the teacher had shown the photographs to his head of department, that might not have been considered as making a report, while keeping the photographs on his cellular phone could cause him to be charged.

According to Hall, he was also relentlessly sexually harassed via letters from students while he taught at an all-girl school in the Corporate Area a decade ago.

After seeking advice on how to deal with the matter, he said he began correcting the girls' grammar and spelling while telling them to do better.

"It didn't stop, but it reduced the frequency of the letters," said Hall.

So aggressive is the campaign by some female secondary-school students that three male teachers recently resigned at the end of the just-concluded school term.

One of the teachers told The Sunday Gleaner that he had to walk away from the Corporate Area-based co-educational school because the girls were sending him lewd images and suggestive text messages, and when he failed to respond favourably, he was accused of being a homosexual.

In the meantime, another former JTA president, Ruel Reid, the principal of Jamaica College, said the issue of male sexual harassment was not unique to teachers.

With the male teachers indicating that some of the girls sourced their contact information through communication groups on platforms such as WhatsApp Messenger, which were set up to help with the teaching and learning process, Reid said he did not support teachers being involved in these groups with their students.

"I do not encourage staff members being part of students' WhatsApp groups and all that. There is no guideline sent out by the ministry and I would not encourage it," said Reid.

"A teacher should not be part of such an arrangement without the consent of the parents. This is a conversation that the association (JTA), the schools and their parent-teacher associations must have. The ministry (of education) must also be part of the discourse as there are no provisions to protect the teachers when something goes wrong," added Reid.