Tue | Dec 6, 2022

Teacher facing multiple sex charges with underage girls

Investigators combing through several videos, photos on male educator’s phone to identify more victims

Published:Sunday | May 22, 2022 | 12:11 AMLivern Barrett - Senior Staff Reporter
Police investigators are now using the phone images to search for other girls they suspect Smith engaged in sex acts with.
Police investigators are now using the phone images to search for other girls they suspect Smith engaged in sex acts with.
The charges now against Ronald Smith, 44, are based on seven alleged incidents, some of them reportedly captured in several phone videos and pictures, with two girls, one of whom was 14 years old at the time and the other a 16-year-old.
The charges now against Ronald Smith, 44, are based on seven alleged incidents, some of them reportedly captured in several phone videos and pictures, with two girls, one of whom was 14 years old at the time and the other a 16-year-old.
1
2

A teacher accused of repeatedly engaging in sex acts with underage female students at two high schools where he was employed has been jailed on over a dozen sex-related charges, The Sunday Gleaner has confirmed. In addition, investigations have...

A teacher accused of repeatedly engaging in sex acts with underage female students at two high schools where he was employed has been jailed on over a dozen sex-related charges, The Sunday Gleaner has confirmed.

In addition, investigations have been launched into other incidents of sexual act with a minor by the teacher, which could lead to more charges being laid against him.

The charges now against Ronald Smith, 44, are based on seven alleged incidents, some of them reportedly captured in several phone videos and pictures, with two girls, one of whom was 14 years old at the time and the other a 16-year-old, sources disclosed.

The incidents reportedly occurred in 2016 while he taught at a St Catherine-based school and this year after he was employed at a St Andrew school.

Police investigators are now using the phone images to search for other girls they suspect Smith engaged in sex acts with.

“We know that there are other minors. It's just to find them,” one law enforcement source, who declined to disclose how many current or former students investigators are trying to locate, told The Sunday Gle aner.

Smith is the third teacher arrested by the police in the last month for allegedly engaging in sex acts with students.

Dawit Jeffrey, 29, a guidance counsellor at a high school in St Andrew, was charged last month with rape and multiple counts of indecent assault involving a 16-year-old female student.

The alleged incidents took place inside his school office.

And a 24-year-old business education teacher at a St Ann institution is facing charges of buggery, grievous sexual assault and indecent assault involving a male student.

“We don't have exact numbers, but I don't believe this problem is an epidemic in the profession,” a senior educator told The Sunday Gleaner, referring to incidents of inappropriate contact between teachers and students.

The educator, who asked not to be named, also acknowledged that there have been “a couple of instances” of female teachers also engaging in sexual acts with male students.

Police investigators agreed that the number of reported cases of this nature are low, indicating that students, particularly females, are reluctant to come forward because “they believe they are in love”.

For male students, engaging in sexual activities with a female teacher is something to “brag” about, one investigator reasoned.

The issue of inappropriate contact between teacher and student and the various legislations that address it are the subjects of numerous training sessions conducted by the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) for persons entering the profession, the senior educator disclosed.

“We try desperately to warn our members, especially the young men, that they ought to be careful. We do that to sort of [thing to] ensure that everyone remains on the straight and narrow,” he said.

In spite of the nature of the accusations being made, Winston Smith, president of the JTA, said the organisation is bound by its articles of association to provide legal representation for teachers who run afoul of the law.

“Any kind of involvement like that is one that we do not support as an association. Article 15 says every member of the association is obligated to be represented by the association. But not because we represent our members means that we support the action,” Smith said during an interview on Friday.

ALLEGED ABUSER TESTIFIES AGAINST FATHER

According to sources, the then 14-year-old in the Ronald Smith case was tracked down through phone images in the possession of the police after he was recently arrested.

She has already given a statement to detectives detailing the four times she and Ronald Smith allegedly had sex after they developed a “friendship” in September 2016 while he was her form and English teacher at the St Catherine-based high school.

Her encounters with Ronald Smith allegedly took place “on a Coaster bus” in Spanish Town, St Catherine, inside a school classroom, at her grandfather's home, also in Spanish Town, and a house in the parish, the statement outlined.

On each occasion he requested that she perform a sex act on him, which were captured in phone videos and pictures, it is alleged.

The complainant, who is now an adult, had reported the incidents to the police in St Ann “sometime in 2019”, but there is no indication why the case was not pursued, a senior law enforcement source disclosed.

Arising from that case, Ronald Smith is now facing four counts each of grievous sexual assault, having sexual intercourse with a person below 16 years old and abduction of a child.

Ironically, law enforcement insiders say it was Ronald Smith who accompanied the then 14-year-old to the police sex crimes unit after she confided in him that she was being sexually abused by her father – during the same period that the teacher was abusing her.

The claims were substantiated in 2019 when her father was convicted for rape, grievous sexual assault and sexual touching.

Ronald Smith was one of the witnesses who gave evidence during the trial, multiple law enforcement sources confirmed.

The girl's father was given an 18-year prison sentence.

The teacher's alleged conduct came to light earlier this month after the 16-year-old student at the St Andrew-based school alerted cops.

Accompanied by her mother, she went to the police and claimed, in a report, that she and Ronald Smith engaged in various sex acts at least three times between April and this month inside his school office.

He was arrested last week attempting to elude cops who surprised him at the school and charged him with two counts of grievous sexual assault and indecent assault, sources revealed.

Ronald Smith made his first court appearance on Thursday when a judge ordered that he should remain in jail.

It is unclear if he has been suspended, as the acting principal of the St Andrew-based school did not return several phone calls from The Sunday Gleaner up to late yesterday.

BACKGROUND CHECKS

Except for early childhood institutions, school administrators are not mandated to conduct background checks or request police records for the teachers they hire, the senior educator told The Sunday Gleaner.

“The practice is that you are certified as a teacher and you come with your qualification. Schools do not routinely ask for police records,” he said.

Lawmakers have moved to close that gap through the proposed Jamaica Teaching Council legislation, which has faced strong opposition from the JTA.

The bill would require prospective teachers to consent to criminal background checks. It is currently being debated by lawmakers.

The JTA president said background checks for teachers is something the organisation would support, but with some limitations.

Winston Smith acknowledged that an employer should have the right to know whether the person they are hiring is fit and proper and in “good standing”, but believes social media should be off limits.

“I would oppose you going on a personal Facebook or social media page and look at things pertaining to persons operating in their normal and natural space as a citizen of Jamaica,” he reasoned.

“But if it means that you are checking to find out if someone is a part of the national sex [offenders'] registry or if it is somebody who has a criminal record or who has a tendency to be abusive to children, then that's different.”

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com