Gov. Ralph DLG Torres will be asking the Office of the Attorney General to look into the Public School System’s handling and management of allegations of sex abuse of its students.
In a letter to Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada and Board of Education chair Janice Tenorio yesterday, Torres said he will be asking the attorney general to conduct a formal investigation into how PSS handles and manages allegations of sexual abuse of minors.
“It is my belief that those who have been victims of sexual assault by teachers or individuals of authority while in the Public School System deserve justice and, while it may be too late to safeguard them from the abuse, we can learn more and do more to protect our students today,” Torres said.
Saipan Tribune tried to obtain comments from both Tenorio and Ada but they had yet to respond as of press time yesterday.
However, when Torres first outlined his legislative priorities last Aug. 8. 2020, that placed “greater safety for students” as a priority, Ada issued a statement supporting the governor’s efforts. “We support initiatives that are aimed at improving and complementing the child protection systems and protocols that have been established to safeguard both our children and personnel from all forms of risk, including sexual abuse,” said Ada’s statement.
He described Torres’ proposed legislative initiative as “the right way forward.”
In his newest letter to PSS leaders, Torres said that parents and PSS stakeholders have endured for many years the anxiety and stress over concerns of sexual assault on students by teachers and administrators.
“These circumstances have persisted for many years, and much of the allegations of abuse that shock the conscience have occurred prior to your leadership of our school system. Yet, I trust in your agreement that we should do everything we can to ensure our schools remain safe for our children,” Torres said.
He said that many of the allegations have not resulted in a public accounting, with parents not provided the solace that appropriate measures are in place to ensure the further safety of their children while in schools.
Torres hopes that the results of the investigation will aid in the effort to better understand the historical and current context relating to the protection of children from sexual offenders masquerading as caretakers.
“It is my hope to engage with the Legislature and our current school administrators to ensure proper care is provided to allegations of sexual assault and that future school administrators are held to account for their responsibility in securing our children from sexual predation,” he said.
Aside from justice, Torres also hopes that the investigation will allow the opportunity to provide sexual assault victims with the assistance they never received.
Last week, Thursday, the governor reached out to the Legislature and laid down his legislative priorities, among which is to create greater safety for students in response to allegations of sexual abuse in PSS. (KIMBERLY A. BAUTISTA and IVA MAURIN)