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Published 18th January 2017, 3:36pm

Statement by the Ministry of Education, Employment & Gender Affairs and the Department of Education Services on the alleged child abuse incident at Sir John A. Cumber Primary School

The Ministry of Education, Employment & Gender Affairs and the Department of Education Services (DES) takes any alleged case of abuse against a student very seriously. In December 2016, an incident occurred at Sir John A. Cumber Primary School where a teacher’s action caused a student to receive an injury.

The matter has since been reported to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and is now being investigated by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS). As a result of this investigation, our comments are limited so that we do not interfere with the investigations being conducted by the police and other government entities.

We can confirm that, in regards to this case, the Ministry and Department received the first report of this incident on 10th January, 2017. This is the same date that the student’s family reported the incident to the school. In the interest of all, and in accordance with the Public Service Management Law, the staff member has been placed on required leave since 12th January, 2017 until the RCIPS investigation is concluded. At that time, any necessary additional action will be taken.

The Ministry of Education has three approved policies that deal with Child Protection in Schools: National Child Abuse Neglect Reporting Policy, National Safe Environment Policy and National Staff Safeguarding Policy. These policies can be found on the Ministry’s website, www.education.gov.ky, under the “Education” tab.

The DES has in place Child Protection Reporting Procedures for all Government Schools that must be followed in cases of suspected child abuse and these align to the approved Child Protection Policies. Every Government School has two Child Protection Officers which are the School Counsellor and a full-time teaching or professional staff member within the school. These officers receive regular training and also provide training to their colleagues in their school. There is also mandatory training for all teaching staff on child abuse, and on the Children Law (2012 Revision) as well as the Child Protection Policies and Reporting Procedures.

It should also be noted that the reporting of all disclosed and suspected abuse or neglect of children to the relevant authorities is mandatory in the Cayman Islands as set out in the Children Law (2012 Revision). There are strict penalties for not reporting which includes fines and/or imprisonment. It is the responsibility of the Cayman Islands Government Education System to report the information and hand the case over to the DCFS and Family Support Unit (FSU) of the RCIPS, and it is their responsibility to carry out the official investigation.

Child protection and safety is a priority of the Ministry and Department. Additionally, the Education Bill, 2016 which was passed by the Legislative Assembly, states that “Every school and early childhood care and education centre shall have a written Child Protection Policy which shall comply with the Children Law (2012 Revision) and which shall be provided to all employees at the school or centre”.