Published on: 1/19/07.
by ROY R. MORRIS
WE HAVE FALLEN DOWN on this one!
That is how chairman of the Child Care Board, David "Joey" Harper has described the response of his agency to an apparently widely circulated video of a child in school uniform performing oral sex on a male.
When the WEEKEND NATION obtained a copy of the cellphone video earlier this week and contacted Harper on it, he confirmed his agency had been made aware, had obtained a copy, and had shared it with police, but had failed to obtain the support of the child's parents in pursuing the matter.
After a more thorough check yesterday, and the declaration by Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin that he would find it hard to believe that any department of the force would be in possession of such a video and his office not be aware, Harper explained that it now looked like contact with the police "had been informal".
In the video, the child, wearing the uniform of the junior section of the school in St Michael, with a ribbon in her hair and a knapsack on her back, looks up at the camera during the episode and her face is clearly visible.
Just hours after receiving the video from a minibus driver who reported it was just one of several being circulated, the newspaper forwarded it to Chief Education Officer Wendy Griffith-Watson. After preliminary investigations, she revealed that the chairman of the board of management of the school confirmed they were aware of the case and that the Child Care Board had been informed.
"We have been assured that the guidance counsellor at the school will be giving our officer a report and the name of the parents and the process will definitely start," Harper said last night.
He confirmed, however, that he was first shown a copy of the video more than five weeks ago by a very distraught parent, who told him she had also shared it with a police officer, and that the parents had insisted they would "take care" of the child themselves.
Harper said while he could not offer conclusive evidence, there were reports that a stabbing incident involving a school child from a West Coast secondary school last year centred around a similar episode, as was a more recent violent public confrontation between two St Michael school children in uniform, one of whom was apparently caught on a cellphone in a sex act.
During the course of this week THE NATION was shown two other cellphone videos of girls, who appeared to be underage, also having oral sex with men.
"Barbadians seem not to understand the extent of this problem," Harper said. "Recently I spoke at a secondary school and made reference to the latest buzzword in the school, "headmistress", and pointed out that I knew that it had nothing to do with teaching and everybody sniggered, because they knew what I was taking about. We have a real problem on our hands."
Yesterday evening Commissioner Dottin sent an officer from the Juvenile Laison Scheme to THE NATION to view and obtain a copy of the video, promising a thorough investigation and appropriate action.