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New teaching conduct committee for next year

  • Room for improvement: Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, speaks at a press conference (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

An organisation responsible for handling complaints about teachers could have a professional conduct committee in place by 2020, the education minister said yesterday.

Diallo Rabain said that since becoming minister he had met with the Bermuda Educators Council to discuss “the need to improve their operations within the remit of the relevant legislation”.

He added: “The talks had not covered a professional conduct committee but I plan to encourage the BEC to have an empanelled professional conduct committee in place in the New Year.”

Mr Rabain was responding to questions from The Royal Gazette after it was revealed this week that the BEC does not have the resources to fulfil its statutory duties.

Crenstant Williams, council chairman, told the newspaper the council did not investigate allegations against teachers, hold disciplinary hearings or issue teaching bans, despite the legal ability to do so.

He explained: “We do not have a professional conduct committee. It’s one of the things we want to form.”

Allegations of misconduct against public schoolteachers are handled instead by the Department of Education, behind closed doors.

Complaints about teachers at private schools are dealt with by the schools themselves.

Mr Rabain said the current operations of the BEC showed “there is room for improvement”.

He added: “As the body charged with certifying teachers, their responsibility is critically important to ensuring only the best suited teachers are allowed to practise in Bermuda.

“As we reform education, it is critical that the BEC’s operation be examined and the necessary changes made to be able to fulfil their legislated remit.”

Mr Rabain was asked whether police background checks of teachers were a statutory requirement and whether police checks had been carried out on all members of staff at public schools. It is understood by The Royal Gazette that carrying out police checks on educators is not a legal requirement for schools.

“It is within best practice of the Department of Education to ensure that police vetting takes place during the recruitment of any teachers,” said the minister.

He did not respond to a further request for clarity.

Mr Rabain said all new teachers who were hired received mandatory training from child sex abuse prevention charity Saving Children and Revealing Lies before working at public schools.

He added: “All current teachers are required to be Scars trained and PD (professional development) is given to ensure this is done.”

The Gazette last month reported on the case of Christine DaCosta, who was groomed for sex by teacher Robert DiGiacomo while a student at Mount Saint Agnes Academy in 1999.

Mr DiGiacomo, then a 44-year-old married father of three, was made to resign from the private Catholic school and banned from entering the premises.

But MSA did not carry out a full investigation or subject the teacher to disciplinary proceedings.

The Bermuda Educators Council Act was passed by Parliament in 2002, with the aim of maintaining and improving standards of professional conduct of educators, as well as raising teaching standards.

The law enabled a council to be set up and gave it disciplinary functions, such as the ability to investigate alleged teacher misconduct and issue disciplinary and prohibition orders where allegations were proven.

Its statutory powers mirror those of the Teaching Regulation Agency in Britain, which conducts disciplinary proceedings in public, for the most part, and publishes online the outcomes of hearings.

Ms DaCosta, now 38, said this week she was dismayed at the apparent lack of oversight of teachers, 20 years after her case was reported.