A primary school teacher in Limassol has been reported for allegedly sexually harassing a student but the state has been unable to do anything but transfer him to another school, according to Disy MP Efthymios Diplaros.
In a press conference on Thursday, Diplaros said he sought to make public two cases he was aware of, in a bid to raise awareness of the issue to resolve the problem.
His admission a day earlier of one case from six years ago- which caused uproar during a television panel on Sigma TV which he was invited on – prompted the response of Anastasia Papadopoulou, the special adviser in preparing a national strategy to protect children from sexual abuse.
While on the TV show, Diplaros said a parent had reported a specific teacher from a Limassol primary school to the education ministry but backed out at the last minute “because he was afraid for his child, the grades in school, that nothing would happen and because he didn’t believe in the system or that it would fire the teacher from the school”.
The parent backed out from filing a report to police and as such, the state was unable to do anything about it, he said.
Diplaros often used the plural tense suggesting the problem was more widespread that one isolated case, prompting the fury from other panelists who said ruling Disy which has been in power for over five years has evidently been unable to solve the problem.
He responded saying that quite the contrary “the message we are sending out is that we are determined – all of us here at the panel and the education ministry – to take such cases before the court of law and drive the knife to the bone so that those in education – or any other post – are sent home and not transferred from one post to another.”
Commenting on his statements, Papadopoulou wrote on Facebook that “it is irresponsible for the purposes of populism” to casually throw about such comments, stipulating that anyone who is aware of a sexual abuse case and doesn’t report it is liable to 15 years in prison.
This applies to education ministry employees who have in their hands on such reports but not do anything about them, Papadopoulou said.
During the press conference, Diplaros said there was also a second case, where a week ago, a high school student in Limassol turned to the Hope for Children NGO in Nicosia with her sister, to complain a teacher was sexually harassing her.
According to Diplaros, as soon as he found out, he informed Limassol police, the police chief, the child protection commissioner who did not know about the case, the ombudswoman and the education ministry’s permanent secretary as the minister was abroad.
He went on to say he had spoken to the district inspector and that the social services had asked the education ministry to not let this case go.
Diplaros told reporters he had given two statements to police and would give a third on Friday so a disciplinary investigation could move forward as well as to examine if there are any omissions or gaps in their procedure.
The problem in the case which happened six years ago was because the parents could not be convinced to give a written statement to police so the case could go to court.
As a result, the teacher was called before the ministry’s district office where he appeared with his lawyer. “The decision to transfer him to another school was taken precisely because there was no written statement.”
Diplaros said he was aware that there were excellent teachers but this kind – which could be counted on the fingers of his hand – should be removed from schools and parents should be supported so they could proceed with written complaints.
He added the law should be changed so that the statement from parents of the victim or the victims themselves should not be the sole basis of the case.
Diplaros denied he made the cases public in a bid to gain popularity, saying he had received threats ever since the revelations.
Primary school teachers’ union Poed said this was a deliberate attempt to hurt the teaching world.