Chennai

Chennai school suspends teacher accused of sexual misconduct by students

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A city school that was in the cross hairs since Sunday night for allegations of sexual misconduct levelled against a teacher by students has suspended him pending the completion of inquiry.

School education minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi, DMK MPs Kanimozhi and Dayanidhi Maran have also recorded their responses to the sexual harassment charges made on social media.

Allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against a faculty member of the city based group of schools surfaced on social media and soon went viral after a group of students who are currently studying in the school, shared them on Sunday night.

The allegations made by the students were initially shared on the Instagram page of a former student of the school, Kripali. She told The Hindu that some students had initially reached out to her to ask if students from her batch had faced such sexual misconduct from a Commerce teacher G. Rajagopalan. He has reportedly been teaching Commerce and Accountancy for over 20 years at the school.

“After receiving the first message,I put out a message asking students currently studying in the school to get in touch with me about the same. After speaking to a few of them, I began to share their experiences,” she said. Several students responded to her messages and shared instances of Mr. Rajagopalan’s inappropriate behaviour -- both during physical classes as well as virtual classes.

A student alleged that the teacher has been asking them to send pictures of them to him and two other students shared that he had engaged in sexually inappropriate behaviour in class. Another student shared that he had asked her to go for a movie with him. A student shared that while they had complained to the school about his behaviour, no action had been taken.

School responds

A statement in the evening confirmed the suspension of Mr. Rajagopalan.

Earlier in the day, in a statement sent out to students, the Dean, Director and Correspondent of the group of schools and the principal of the school refuted the allegations that these concerns had been brought to the attention of the management in the past.

“However, we are taking suo motu notice of the allegations and will take all necessary steps to address the situation in a free, fair and transparent manner. The welfare of our students has always been and will be our top priority,” they said, and assured the students of an appropriate course of action.

Their statement further said that the school has zero tolerance towards any behaviour that adversely affects the physical, emotional and psychological well being of our students.

Alumni express solidarity with students

In a statement, the alumni of the school expressed their support and solidarity with the present students who have come out and alleged sexual misconduct misbehaviour and harassment against Mr. Rajagopalan, and demanded immediate action including his suspension as a teacher of the school, pending an investigation.

“It pains us that despite the fact that complaints and concerns about Mr. Rajagopalan has been escalated in the past, it has not been dealt with the rigour expected of an institution like [name withheld], and we hope that the same will be addressed effectively now,” they said.

They have also asked to ensure that he does not perform any evaluation for any student pending an investigation.

“Ensure that the child protection committee as well as the gender sensitivity committee is suitably appraised of the matter and an independent investigation against Mr. Rajagopalan with an adequate number of external members commences with immediate effect,” their statement said.

The City Police's special wing, Crime against Women and Children meanwhile, took cognisance of the allegations against the faculty member and the school. On the instruction of the City Police Commissioner, a special team led by H. Jayalakshmi, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Crime against Women and Children (CWC) wing is enquiring into the allegations.

School Education Department to look into allegations

Minister for School Education Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi said that he has asked officials from the School Education department to look into the allegations.

“The CEO under whose jurisdiction the school comes has enquired with the school management about the allegations. The school has told us that they will be setting up a committee to look into the issue and inform us about it. Appropriate action will be taken,” he said.

When asked about the allegations against the school that they had not looked into past complaints made by the students, the minister said that the school has refuted these allegations to them. “However, if we find out that past complaints have been neglected, we will take action,” he added.

DMK MP Kanimozhi tweeted on Monday morning saying that the sexual harassment allegations were shocking. “Inquiry should be conducted and action must be taken against those who are involved including school authorities who failed to act against the complaints from students. I promise to take this to the concerned authorities,” she said.

In a letter to Union Minister for Education Ramesh Pokhriyal, Mr Dhayanidhi Maran requested for an enquiry to be initiated against the conduct of the school management and trustees with regard to the issue and why suitable and immediate action was not taken the first time such a complaint was received by the management, as alleged by the students.

 

 “With so many students and alumnae saying that they have raised issues about the teacher's behavior with the authorities, the school is denying that these instances were brought to their attention in the past and that they were taking suo motu action on the basis of the social media posts, does not inspire confidence that a free and fair investigation will be conducted by the school authorities,” his letter read.

 

Stating that the school is a CBSE affiliated one, he said that the Board should also initiate suitable enquiries into lapses in the safety mechanisms prescribed by them for the protection of students on campus and take strict action against those found erring, if the board wishes to protect the reputation and integrity of its safety mechanisms.


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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 3:12:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/chennai-school-suspends-teacher-accused-of-sexual-misconduct-by-students/article34631786.ece

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