The lack of communication between the Public Education Ministry and the justice system became apparent again last week, with the news that a convicted rapist had, until recently, been working as a school principal on the Caribbean slope.
As in past months, a report by the daily La Nación had the ministry on the defensive.
The paper revealed in September 2005 and again in January that the ministry had rehired teachers with convictions including rape, statutory rape and sexual abuse of minors (TT, Sept. 23, 2005, Jan. 13).
This time, the convict is Julio César Yataco, convicted in 2001 for twice raping his pregnant maid, the daily reported. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2004, and the appeal process ended Feb. 13. Yataco was serving as the principal of the Liceo de Cuatro Esquinas, in Cariari de Pococí, Limón, where he slept in an office next to the school.
According to La Nación, Yataco stopped going to work March 6, telling some of his coworkers only that he was sick.
While the story said the Education Ministry wasn’t even aware of Yataco’s conviction, the ministry responded in a statement that the organization “is aware” of the cases and “has acted according to our legislation.”
According to the statement, the ministry received complaints about Yataco and began a disciplinary hearing, but the principal was absolved when the victim and her mother refused to “ratify the charges” against him.
Apparently, however, the ministry was unaware of Yataco’s conviction.
Education Minister Manuel Antonio Bolaños and other ministry personnel have repeatedly complained that the Judicial Branch does not provide information to the ministry about charges or convictions against ministry employees. Unless the victims who press charges within the court system also file a complaint with the ministry, education officials have no way of knowing an employee is accused of a crime, according to the ministry.
For the first time this year, the ministry implemented background checks on all new and returning employees, and is updating its background information on its more than 60,000 teachers, a process that is still ongoing.
In addition, the Child Welfare Office (PANI) is drafting a bill to give not only the Education Ministry, but all employers, the legal backing to deny convicted sex offenders positions that would place them in direct contact with children (TT, March 3).
According to legal analysts, existing laws make it possible for ex-convicts who have served their time to sue potential employers who deny them jobs based on their criminal records.