Edna Manley student wants speedy passage of Sexual Harassment Bill

Thursday, July 11, 2019

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JANELL Blair, the student at the centre of the sexual harassment allegations against a faculty member at the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts (EMCVPA), is urging Parliament to expedite the passage of the Sexual Harassment Bill.

The Bill, which was tabled Tuesday in the House by portfolio minister Olivia Grange, is to be reviewed by a joint select committee.

Blair made the recommendation in a statement to the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC), yesterday.

The sex scandal affecting the EMCVPA has been the subject of deliberations at the PAAC over the past several weeks, with the principal giving testimony regarding the institution's current sexual harassment policy, and the actions which the administration took when allegations against a staff member came to light, first in 2017 and again this year.

In a statement to the PAAC yesterday, which was read by chairman Dr Wykeham McNeill, Blair said the allegations of harassment affecting the college are not unique to that institution, and highlights the need for swift enactment of the Sexual Harassment Bill.

“With this Bill passed, victims of sexual harassment will be more empowered to make reports, as a legal remedy would be available for them. Sexual harassment in Jamaica ought to be frowned upon; it is possible to change what is viewed as being the norm in society by implementing the necessary laws to protect individuals. The policy at schools should be in accordance with the law, and schools and workplaces should be places conducive to learning and productivity,” she said. The committee met in-camera with the student and another individual affiliated with the college.

Blair pointed to the absence of a clear-cut and accessible policy at the EMCVPA. “Schools should be safe places for all and students ought not to feel violated or fearful of teachers and administrators. The current policy on sexual harassment at Edna Manley is not easily accessible to students, and it is not laid out in the student handbook,” she said.

According to the student, the policy states that if persons believe they are being sexually harassed it should be brought to the attention of any member of the Sexual Harassment Advisory Board, but she argued that students are not made aware of the membership of that board and, therefore, are unaware of who complaints should be made to, and what the procedures are.

– Alphea Saunders

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