“Why isn’t mummy here?”
This is a question that often comes from the tiny lips of four-year-old Danielle Ramsoomair.
A Tobago primary school principal appeared in the Scarborough Magistrates Court yesterday charged with 14 counts of sexual assault against four students. Shortly after 11 am, David Smith, 52, the principal of a prominent Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) school, stood before Magistrate Glen Mahabir as the charges were read to him. All the charges were laid indictably and he was not called upon to plead. The T&T Guardian understands that the alleged victims range in ages from ten to 12 years old. The offences are a combination of indecent assault and serious indecency and are alleged to have taken place on the school compound.
Smith, a married father of five, was granted $400,000 bail subject to approval by a clerk of the peace. He was ordered to stay away from his alleged victims, not to contact them, either directly or indirectly, and to report to the Roxborough Police Station on Mondays and Thursdays between 7 am and 6 pm. The principal was represented by attorney Anthony Arnold. Mr Smith is also an elder in an Adventist Church in east Tobago. He is scheduled to reappear on March 10. The T&T Guardian understands the news of the alleged incidents had stunned the SDA community. Contacted yesterday, communications officer of the Tobago Mission of Seventh Day Adventists, Wilfred des Vignes, said the church’s position has always been about maintaining high morals and spiritual values. “The standard of the church remains the same despite the incident that is now in the hand of the police and we are co-operating with the investigation as it has not yet been completed,” Des Vignes said.
He said the mission met with the Division of Education yesterday and it has pledged its support in counseling the students at the school. However, he said, the teachers and students at the school had managed to continue their activities yesterday despite the severity of the matter and the effect it had on the institution. “School is operating as normal. All members of staff were on the job today (yesterday) and we are supporting the staff. We would have also had some discussions with the Division of Education and they are going to assist us in providing additional counseling and support for both the students and the teachers,” he said. Des Vignes said Smith, who has been a principal of the school for approximately ten years, has been suspended from the position and has since been asked to step down as an elder of his church. Tobago police are continuing investigations.