Edna Manley College to axe alleged sex offender

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

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THE board of Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts has advised that the senior faculty member accused of sexual harassment is to be terminated.

Karl Samuda, the minister in charge of education, made the disclosure in the House of Representatives yesterday afternoon while answering questions laid by Opposition spokesman on education Peter Bunting regarding issues at the college which came to public attention several months ago.

The Marigold Harding-chaired board took the decision following three disciplinary hearings in which Samuda said the faculty member was “admonished and censored for professional misconduct, and inappropriate behaviour”.

“The matter at hand is one that is now virtually concluded, so based on the report on the disciplinary hearing, according to the board, the person involved has been found responsible,” he said. The majority decision, he said, was that the senior faculty member was to be dismissed, pursuant to regulations of the 1980 Education Act.

“What we have here is a board which has acted with alacrity and has brought the matter to conclusion. It can be, under law, appealed and we will deal with that, but at the moment that process is at an end. We do have legal advice that is offered to the board and the board has acted responsibly and brought conclusion to the matter,” Samuda stated.

He also told the House that more than $2.7 million has so far been expended on the disciplinary proceedings.

In July, the Edna Manley student who brought the sexual harassment claims, in a statement to Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC), said students were losing trust in the institution because incidents reported have not been dealt with promptly or effectively by the administration.

“As a result, victims have been reluctant to come forward with their complaints as matters of this nature are often minimised. Action by the heads of institutions to reports of sexual harassment should be done quickly in order to protect students and staff members who are being harassed,” said the student. “When reports are made by students to these individuals it is expected that they will be taken care of in a timely manner, not weeks or months after the fact. If a complaint submitted to a dean takes six weeks to reach a school board, the school did not immediately act on it,” she said.

Samuda told the House yesterday that numerous complaints have been received via the e-mail address which the board had set up. At the same time, he said several seminars have been hosted for members of staff to sensitise them to issues concerning sexual harassment, and that the institution's sexual harassment policy had been revised. He said the document is to be finalised by January 2020.

Samuda, meanwhile, said he would be appointing an external committee to do a separate investigation on all matters related to the college.

Embattled principal of the college Dr Nicholeen DeGrasse-Johnson was suspended by the board in September, pending conclusion of the investigation and hearing.

She has been accused of neglect, gross inefficiency, and such other conduct that may amount to professional misconduct, but in her testimony at a meeting of the PAAC in June, DeGrasse-Johnson defended her handling of the matter.

Yesterday, Samuda insisted that the principal has not been dismissed, and that she will get a fair hearing, which is to be convened shortly.

— Alphea Saunders


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