Strategy to combat child abuse
An attempt to cut the risk of sex abuse in a primary school has been launched by a child protection charity with backing from a risk management firm.
Windows are to be installed in all doors at Pembroke's Victor Scott Primary School so private meetings between pupils and staff can be seen at all times.
The initiative is a collaboration between charity Saving Children and Revealing Secrets, risk management firm Artex Risk Solutions, the Department of Education and Treecon, supplier of windows and doors. Terry Cox, assistant director of educational standards and accountability with the Department of Education, told The Royal Gazette: “We have been working with Scars for the last few years to ensure teachers, volunteers and anyone with continuous access to children have their certification.”
Ms Cox added that the school had been putting inserts in any doors that needed replacing, but a $5,000 donation from Artex “really helps us get the whole school completed”.
The Department of Education will make up the rest of the estimated $10,642 cost to install windows in the school's 34 doors.
Scars' founder and executive director Debi Ray-Rivers explained that the windows “allow interaction with children to be observable and interruptible and this reduces risk”.
“What we are trying to do is avoid isolated one-on-ones and automatically putting a window in can make a child not feel isolated in a classroom setting with the door closed.
She said this helps Scars accomplish its mission in the community of reducing the risk of child sexual abuse.
Ms Ray-Rivers said Artex offered to help fund the work after she was invited to deliver the charity's Prevent Now presentation.
“Immediately they said they want to have some of their staff trained,” she said.
After taking part in the Darkness to Light Stewards of Children training, which teaches participants to prevent, recognise, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse, they wanted to do more.
“That's when we started talking about schools and how not all of them have windows in doors,” Ms Ray-Rivers said. “Right away they opened their hearts.”
In addition to donating the money, Artex also offered the use of their boardroom for training sessions and staff assembled 500 training kits for the charity.
Robert Eastham, the managing director of Artex's Bermuda office, said: “We design alternative risk insurance solutions for companies around the world. But first and foremost, we're members of the local Bermuda community. We are committed to helping this community thrive and grow. We can't think of anything more important than protecting our children and providing them with a safe environment to grow up in.
“This year we've assembled Scars training kits and had employees go through Scars training.
“Now we're providing funding to ensure that the children in Victor Scott Primary School will have windows in each classroom, allowing them to be visible and therefore reducing the risk of anything inappropriate happening.”
Mr Alexander and Ms Ray-Rivers both said they would like to see this initiative extended throughout Bermuda in any organisation entrusted with the care of children.
The inserts will be installed by TreeCon at half the normal cost per door, co-owner Keith Rowntree said.
“The fact that they are all wood makes it a lot faster,” he said, adding that there might be one steel door he will handle himself.
“We do a lot of work for the local schools so it's a blast.”