By Michelle Jay, Sigrid Rolfe and Jillian Kilfoil
Former Charlottetown high-school music teacher Roger James Jabbour has been found guilty of sexual exploitation and sexual touching of three former students, and will face another judge’s decision in November regarding two charges of sexual exploitation allegedly involving a fourth former student. The allegations are both historical and recent, and we have questions about why they were not addressed sooner. It is important for the Public Schools Branch and other stakeholders to review what ocurred. Were there any complaints? How were they investigated? Who investigated them?
In the unlikely scenario that there were no complaints against this particular teacher, what signs of misconduct got missed? How were they missed, and who missed them? What sexual misconduct prevention policies are in place in P.E.I. schools? Are they monitored and enforced and who is responsible? Which parts of those policies failed to protect the young and vulnerable women who were victimized and traumatized in their high school where they should have been safe to learn and grow?
These are just some of the unanswered questions. When allegations of abuses so serious are made, it is our responsibility to demand answers, in order to retain the public’s trust and confidence and ensure the safety of young people. The Government of P.E.I. has made a commitment to the well-being of students and families by establishing the student well-being teams that serve Colonel Gray and other schools on the Island. Let’s continue building on this momentum for change and not lose the opportunity to build procedures for hearing and addressing complaints about sexual misconduct in our public school system. With the rise of #metoo and #timesup movements we are finally seeing a shift in culture, and schools should be no exception. We must all work together to engage in difficult conversations to ensure safety and well being of all members of society particularly young people.
Michelle Jay is with the P.E.I. Advisory Council on the Status of Women
Sigrid Rolfe is with the P.E.I. Rape and Sexual Assault Centre
Jillian Kilfoil is with the Women’s Network P.E.I.