August 22, 2012
Pastor Manny Cowo
Chairman of the Board, Belmopan Baptist High School
2 ½ Airport Road
Belmopan, Cayo District
Dear Pastor Cowo,
It has been very disturbing to read the media reports about the allegations of an improper sexual relationship between the principal of the Belmopan Baptist High School, Pastor Norman Willacey, and one of his 16-year-old female students.
Although in a strict legal sense it appears that no crime was committed under our current laws, Pastor Willacey’s actions nonetheless constitute a gross abuse of power and trust, not just to the child in question, but to her family, the school and community.
I appeal to the Board of the Belmopan Baptist High School to move swiftly to resolve this situation in the best interest of the children attending your institution. Pastor Willacey has publicly implicated himself, verifying in a text message that he was “fooling around” with a student in his care.
His confessed actions alone warrant his removal from his post. I urge the Board to at the very least immediately suspend Pastor Willacey from his duties if the Board deems it necessary to investigate the full extent of the matter.
Perpetrators come in all shapes and forms and our children have a right to be protected from them all. As such, all allegations of abuse and exploitation of children—regardless of whom they are being levied at—should be taken seriously and quick action taken to prevent such future occurrences.
I am very mindful of the fact that our current laws do not extend protection to all children in all situations of sexual abuse and exploitation. My Office is working along with the Ministry of Human Development and the Solicitor General’s Chambers towards legislative amendments that will extend legal protection to all children, including in cases such as this one where a person in authority has abused his position of trust.
In the meantime, however, it is incumbent on us as adults to do all that is in our power to protect our children.
I urge the school’s management to take prompt and decisive action in this matter, to set an example for our nation and to send a clear message that the best interest of our Belizean children is of paramount consideration.
Kim Simplis Barrow (Mrs.)
Special Envoy for Children & Women