Official explains schools’ child protection policy

Education officials say they have strict protocols for responding to “child protection” issues in the wake of the arrest and charge of a school teacher for a string of sex offenses against students.

The teacher, who works in the public school system, had been suspended since his arrest in December last year. Delroy James, 32, was charged on Thursday with 14 offenses, including three counts of indecent assault.

Legal issues prevent officials, or anyone else, from commenting directly on Mr. James’ case until the conclusion of court proceedings.

Speaking generally about the education department’s response to allegations of child abuse in schools, Shirley Wahler, the chief education officer, said there was a clear process in place.

She said any allegations around child protection issues were immediately reported to the Department of Children and Family Services, which would investigate along with the police’s family support unit.

“Staff in all our schools have been trained in how to respond to child protection issues. This is something we take very seriously.

“If the complaint concerns a member of our staff, once we are advised that the matter is being pursued, the member of staff is placed on required leave while the issue is investigated. We cooperate fully in such cases with Department of Children and Family Services and the police Family Support Unit.

“If we are advised that no charges are being filed in the matter, we may still pursue an internal investigation.”

Statistics from the Department of Children and Family Services reveal that from 2009 to 2014, there were 251 cases of child abuse in six categories, with sexual abuse the most frequent – 98 cases.

Experts believe abuse cases are grossly under-reported and the Cayman Islands Red Cross is currently in the midst of a campaign to increase awareness of sexual abuse in Cayman and encourage more people, including children, to come forward if they are aware of allegations of abuse.

Changes to the Children’s Law were introduced in Cayman in 2009 to legally compel people in certain professions, including teachers, doctors, social workers and religious ministers, to file a report if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that a child is being abused or neglected.