Senator Deyalsingh concerned about paedophile teacher applicants

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo: Independent Senator Dr Varma Deyalsingh.

SOME people may want to become teachers because they are sexually attracted to children. The Teaching Service Commission (TSC) has had to deal with 71 disciplinary matters involving teachers between 2018 and this year.

These were some of the matters raised during a virtual meeting of the Local Authorities, Service Commissions and Statutory Authorities Committee on Wednesday.

Committee chairman, Independent Senator Dr Varma Deyalsingh, a psychiatrist, observed that some people apply for jobs in certain professions “to feed on their perversions.”

He asked representatives of the Service Commissions Department if there were instances where people applying to the commission may have been doing that “to feed on paedophilic tendencies.”

A paedophile is a person who is sexually attracted to children.

Acting deputy director of personnel administration at the Service Commissions Department Martel Waldron replied, “Yes. Unfortunately it is a reality that we are facing.”

Waldron was unable to give statistics of such instances to the committee. He also could not say whether this was something which was increasing or decreasing.

But he said, “Yes. We have far too many of them, and those matters are being treated by the commission.”

Martel told committee members that between January 2018 and March this year, the TSC has been dealing with 71 disciplinary matters. Over that same period, he continued, the TSC and Public Service Commission (PSC) were dealing with a total of 150 disciplinary matters.

Referring specifically to disciplinary matters before the TSC, Waldron said 25 of the 71 matters have been dealt with. Of the 25 completed cases, he added, there were two dismissals and one exoneration.

TT Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) industrial relations officer Kerry Broomes said the union is concerned about the length of time taken to determine disciplinary matters involving teachers.

“There is no real process for dealing with those matters.”

He wondered if there were any genuine efforts in those proceedings to rehabilitate the alleged offenders.

Committee member Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal expressed concern that virtual disciplinary tribunal hearings lack the ability for interrogators to accurately assess a person’s mannerisms, that in-person hearings would.

Acting director of personnel administration Corey Harrison said, “We will be returning to in-person tribunals.”

In acknowledging Sagramsingh-Sooklal’s concerns, Harrison hoped the return to in-person tribunals would happen by year’s end.

Focusing on the length of time tribunal hearings take, Sagramsingh-Sooklal said, “One person was able to do a PhD while waiting to be disciplined. That could never be fair.”

Deyalsingh described himself as the “product of dedicated teachers.”

He lamented there were some teachers who no longer treat it as a noble profession.

“Those were people who helped mould my character.”

Teachers, Deyalsingh continued, perform roles ranging from a nurse to a police officer, in developing the nation’s children into adults and future leaders of society.

“The role of a teacher is very important.”