Mon | Dec 5, 2022

Call for police record hurdle for high-school teachers

Published:Friday | October 7, 2022 | 12:11 AM

A government lawmaker has strongly suggested that the requirement for early childhood educators to produce a police record before obtaining employment be expanded to include teachers at the secondary level.

Minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, Floyd Green, on Thursday told colleague legislators on a joint select committee reviewing the Jamaica Teaching Council Act 2022 that persons seeking employment in other sectors are required to produce a police record.

“If you are going to join the police force, you have to get a police record. If you are going on the farm work programme, you have to have a police record. We have to start afresh with this thing,” Green contended.

A former state minister in the Ministry of Education, Green suggested that the cost to obtain a police record should not be a factor because educators in the early childhood sector were compensated at a lower pay scale but are required to satisfy the policy requirement.

He insisted that the concept of the low level of remuneration for early childhood educators is not a consideration because, in order to interact with the children, they have to show that they do not have a criminal record.

Green recommended that teachers who are already in the system not be forced to produce a police record when the proposed Jamaica Teaching Council Act takes effect. However, he said that it should be a requirement for new teachers entering the profession.

Committee Chairperson Fayval Williams agreed with Green’s proposal while Senator Lambert Brown indicated that he would not take a position on that proposal at this time.

St Catherine South East Member of Parliament Robert Miller said he was in full agreement with the suggestion for teachers entering the profession to furnish a police record.

“If someone is going to teach our children, we want to ensure that they are safe in the hands of that person’s care, and we want to ensure that a police record is presented when that person is entering,” Miller said.

The Teachers’ Colleges of Jamaica (TCJ), which made a submission to the committee earlier this year, urged lawmakers to create a level playing field for criminal background checks to be done on all persons employed at any level of the educational system.

“This will give all members of our society the assurance that persons will not be employed at any level of the educational system whose antecedents suggest a propensity to do harm to others - students, fellow teachers, staff, parents, guardians or other visitors to our schools,” the group stated.

The TCJ made the observation that the Early Childhood Commission was criticised in the Patterson report for having “altered” the validity of police records to suit the five-year licence period of teaching licences.

“Our recommendation is that a current, valid police report be provided in support of each application for registration, licensing, and authorisation,” the group submitted.