Schools mull child protection measures

There were allegations of sexual harassment from Chennai schoolchildren, alumni

May 30, 2021 12:03 am | Updated 12:03 am IST - CHENNAI

An outpouring of allegations of sexual harassment on social media over the last week from both students and alumni of Chennai schools has led to institutions taking cognisance of the gravity of the issue and putting measures in place to ensure student safety and sensitise faculty members.

While assuring parents and students that they had a zero tolerance policy towards sexual harassment on campus, a city-based school on its website said students were welcome to write to their school principals or counsellors, and strict action would be taken as per law.

The school also made available information regarding the constitution of a committee on campus governed by the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace (POSH) Act.

“In the last week, three schools reached out to have sessions to sensitise male teachers. We have to make it clear that name-calling, body shaming or any inappropriate behaviour either on campus or during online classes is completely unacceptable,” said a consultant, who facilitated sessions for schools.

She said since classes had completely gone online, all teachers were strictly instructed to communicate with the students only as a group by sending broadcast messages, and not individually e-mail or message them. Over the next week, another school said they were planning to send out a circular to the parents about complaint redressal mechanisms in place, and whom either the children or parents could contact to raise concerns.

“While we have resource material that is distributed to students of all classes, which speaks about identifying and preventing child sexual abuse, children have also been told about the 1098 helpline as well as the POCSO Act,” said the principal of a school in the suburbs.

Schools in the State are also currently waiting for guidelines that the Tamil Nadu government promised to release to monitor online classes being conducted in educational institutions due to COVID-19.

“Once the guidelines are announced, we must implement whatever we practically can. Many institutions thought that online learning would be a short-term solution, but now that it has been over a year, and guidelines addressing issues regarding student safety are important,” said D.C. Elangovan, general secretary, Federation of Private Schools in Tamil Nadu.

G.R. Sridhar, State president, Tamil Nadu Correspondents’ Association of Private Schools, said schools should ensure that parents are involved and aware of the schedule of online classes that their children are attending. “Schools should insist on parents acknowledging this schedul, so that they know when classes are happening from a safety perspective. We also want the government to consider allowing schools to call a limited number of teachers on campus so that they can take the online classes and use the school’s devices,” he said.

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