Representatives from the Suspected Child Abuse & Neglect (SCAN) Unit, the Ministry of Health, the Department of Public Health and the Ministry of Education are working together to create a set of structured guidelines to assist students suspected of being abused and neglected.

Guidance counsellors, social workers, nurses, teachers and administrators recently met at Holy Cross Anglican Church Hall in the first of two workshops to review, discuss and make recommendations on the Draft School Protocol, which will contain the guidelines.

Staff Nurse Fiona St. Albord said the main objectives for the workshops are:

      to sensitise relevant stakeholders to child abuse, to point out its indicators, to explain what to do if a child is suspected of being abused;
      to strengthen networking and partnerships in the care and management of abused children and their families;
      to provide a protocol document to assist with the effective and efficient management of abused children in the schools.

Nurse St. Albord said as educators, the participants come into contact and deal with children of abuse. They also on a day-to-day basis, she noted, see first-hand the symptoms and signs displayed by abused children.

“You are a lot of times the first ones to notice the initial indicators of abuse,” she said.

Coordinator at the SCAN Unit Althea Turner-Neilly said it was important to have workshops to introduce and promote the School Draft Protocol, because there are students who are victims of abuse at all levels of the school system – even preschool.

While there is a safety manual in schools relating to things like cell phones, dress codes and other issues, there is no protocol that focuses on abuse, be it physical, emotional or sexual, Mrs. Turner-Neilly explained.

She noted that once the School Draft Protocol is completed, it will have clearly defined steps so that all schools will have easy to follow steps on how to handle suspected abuse cases.

Mrs. Turner-Neilly also reminded that teachers and administrators must report suspected abuse cases else face possible disciplinary action.

Teachers and administrators from the preschool and primary school level attended the first workshop, while the second workshop will be made up of educators from the junior and senior high schools.

Mrs. Turner-Neilly said after the recommendations from the workshop have been evaluated and analysed, they will be included in a draft/position paper, which will be presented to the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health and the Department of Public Health.

The Ministries and the Department will send back their recommendations, instructions and advice on the draft.

The process will continue until all the stakeholders come to a consensus on the document.