Dear Bishops Community

 

In the June edition of Noseweek (published today) there is an article which refers to Bishops and particularly to the way the school has dealt with issues around the sexual abuse of boys during their time here in the past.

 

We would like to make it clear that Bishops condemns acts of sexual abuse of any kind in the strongest possible way.

 

The Noseweek story refers to distressing allegations of abuse of a junior boy by a senior boy in a boarding house over 30 years ago that were only recently brought to the school’s attention in terms of the actions of the housemaster at the time, who was apparently unaware of the specific problem.

 

The article also mentions the entirely separate departure from the school of a teacher four years ago.

 

It is not appropriate to comment on the specific allegations in the Noseweek article further than we have in response to the magazine’s enquiries but we believe the article to be inaccurate in many ways and unfair both to the school and, far more importantly, to the individuals who are named or directly involved.

 

The issues raised in the article have been handled in good faith and with absolute commitment and seriousness by all concerned, and the school has endeavoured to be as open as possible and legally permissible about what actions have been taken.  We are prepared to accept criticism or comment about our actions as this is a difficult space for everyone.

 

We would like to assure all members of the Bishops Community that over the past few years the issue of sexual and other abuse has been the subject of Council’s attention and procedures are in place at the school to deal with issues of sexual abuse or abuse of any kind.

 

This has happened because of the legislative imperatives of the new Sexual Offences Act (with its national register of sexual offenders), significant moves in the Church and in education worldwide, and also because there have been a few incidents raised, which have suggested that some of our old boys may have been subjected to abuse in the past during their time at the school.

 

The fact that these incidents are surfacing now is perhaps a consequence of the global trend which, rightly, encourages a much more open debate and discussion about sexual abuse. Council and the school are very determined to ensure that all possible measures are taken to prevent incidents of this nature occurring at Bishops. We are also committed to providing as much support as possible to any member of the school community who may be experiencing (or has experienced) any form of victimization or abuse of this nature.

 

Apart from our abhorrence of the notion that such behaviour may still find its way onto our campus, this is not the forum to debate what may or may not have happened in the past. Instead, it is our priority to convey our zero-tolerance approach to any form of sexual abuse. Further the school will ensure that any pupils or past pupils who may have been subjected to this sort of abuse are assisted, where requested, to find professional support and to guide us in implementing a strategy which will minimize the risk of any occurrence or re-occurrence thereof.

 

Accordingly, the Council and the School Executive have over the past 2 years resolved that:

  • The school Executive team, under Guy Pearson’s leadership, has reviewed all policies and procedures relating to the recruitment of any person employed, or wishing to be employed, at Bishops in any capacity. This process is already well underway and has the support of our existing staff.
  •  We have consulted with the Archbishop of Cape Town, His Grace Thabo Makgoba over the past 2 years on this issue and the Archbishop has kindly granted us access to an experienced forum of professionals to assist any member of the Bishops community to table any issue around sexual abuse, on a confidential basis. Here they will be encouraged to discuss openly and honestly any such matter, whether it be current or something that has occurred at the school in the past. We have undertaken to guide such persons to the appropriate support structures, with the motivation that a measure of both healing and closure can be obtained. In the first instance the Chairman of Council, Mike Bosman, and the Principal of the school, Guy Pearson, will be contact persons with whom incidents can be raised. Please be assured that every case will be handled with the utmost sensitivity and confidentiality.

 

We are confident that Bishops today is a happy and safe environment for all our boys. In pursuit of this the School Executive and the staff of Bishops have made significant changes to practices and procedures. These include changes to our pupil leadership structures and to the junior/senior relationship where emphasis is put on a relationship of mutual and appropriate respect. We have sought to implement a system to ensure a high level of mentoring and nurturing of new boys to ensure that they easily adapt and flourish at Bishops.

 

The school’s Child Abuse Policy has been in place since 2004 and is available on the Bishops website.

 

In addition the establishment of the Bishops Support Unit in 2004 and its subsequent development has not only enabled emotional support for the boys but has over the years resulted in our staff having a deeper understanding of what is best practice in educating boys.

 

We have consulted extensively with the OD Union on this matter and they are very supportive of the initiatives in this regard.

 

If you have any queries regarding this matter please feel free to contact either of us.

 

Kind regards

 

Mike Bosman and Guy Pearson

Chairman of Council and Principal