Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh revealed the teachers accused of sexual offences are among a batch of 58 before the Disciplinary Tribunal of the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) for a range of misconduct charges, some pending for “close to seven or eight years.”
The cases were raised as Gopeesingh responded to a question of what action was being taken to discipline teachers during a news conference at the Education Ministry, Alexandra Street, Port- of-Spain.
Gopeesingh said the TSC had 58 “long outstanding” unresolved cases from government and denominational schools which were before its tribunal.
The matters involved teachers fighting with students, allegations of misconduct, court charges and conspiring to pervert the course of justice.
He said teachers were accused of “sending pornographic texts to students, sexual molestation of students, abuse of students, (some were) arrested and charged for buggery of male students in the same school, (some faced) allegations of misconduct—failure to perform lawful duties, willful disobedience of lawful orders, verbal and physical abuse of teachers and principals (and) misappropriation of funds.”
He told reporters he did not have all the facts with the various cases but several matters were before the courts.
“Some of them would have been suspended with half pay, three-quarter pay and some of them are out of the system on suspension and some may be receiving full salaries while this matter is still awaiting resolution for a number of years. This is where we need tightening up with the TSC and appeals tribunal,” Gopeesingh said.
Matters which did not involve criminal conduct were dealt with by the Education Ministry’s legal department and sent to the TSC for resolution. “Sometimes the tribunals take too long,” he said.
Asked about the delays in dealing with such serious matters, Gopeesingh said he has inherited the situation which came to his attention after he enquired about cases that were before the TSC for a long time.
He said further dialogue had to take place with the TT Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) and denominational boards and the ministry to “come up conclusively with some urgent recommendations.”
Gopeesingh said the system of managing victims particularly students had to be improved and the ministry was “moving expeditiously” to establish centres which would provide counselling.
“At the moment we do not have centres we can send them to and keep them there where they can be fully treated and managed with their parents,” he said.
Assistance would be sought from clinical psychologists and persons trained in managing students. TTUA president Roustan Job last night said the association is also concerned about the very long time such cases have been before the TSC.
“This is very worrisome. We always say that justice delayed is justice denied,” Job said. He said Gopeesingh should have spoken to TTUTA, stakeholders and the National Parent Teachers Association before going public with such cases.