Tamil Nadu

Student safeguarding advisory committee in all TN schools

Photograph used for representational purposes only  

The School Education Department has called for all schools in Tamil Nadu to constitute a student safeguarding advisory committee (SAC) which will continually review, monitor and recommend measures at the institutional level on all aspects of student safety. This is part of the guidelines issued for schools in Tamil Nadu on student safety, and protection from sexual violence.

The SAC committee should comprise of the principal, two teachers, two PTA members, a management representative, a non-teaching staff member and an optional external member.

After several allegations of sexual harassment, abuse and misconduct surfaced on social media against faculty members in schools in the city, Chief Minister M.K. Stalin had called for forming a committee by the School Education Commissioner to issue guidelines regarding online classes during the pandemic situation.

The guidelines issued as a part of a government order from the School Education Department secretary Kakarla Usha, cover a number of aspects with regard to student safety both on campus as well as online, and have detailed the complaint mechanisms to be set up as well as audit tools for safety checks.

As was announced earlier by the Chief Minister, the guidelines state that schools are expected to record all online classes and random audits of the same should be carried out periodically by a member of the student safeguarding advisory committee. Both students and faculty members are to follow a dress code suitable for classroom settings during online classes as well.

Complaint centre

A State level Central Complaint Centre (CCC) with a hotline facility as well as a dedicated e-mail address to enable receipt of all school-based complaints of sexual abuse against students, from anyone will be set up by the School Education Department. In the case of complaints received at school through any mode of communication, the SAC will immediately inform the CCC. The purpose of the CCC is to offer an alternative complaint mechanism and provide appropriate guidance on the protocol to be observed so that all complaints are addressed.

For the hotline and the e-mail address, a trained, multidisciplinary team drawn from different fields will guide callers/complainants regarding the protocol to be followed on receipt of an allegation.

The guidelines have stated that all interaction between the CCC and callers will be documented and kept strictly confidential. The guidelines state that all teaching and non-teaching staff have to complete an annual mandatory orientation on sexual offences, defined under POCSO Act, 2012 following which a compliance report will be sent to the department.

The School Education Department will work on developing a model guide for this orientation, which will include understanding issues specific to child sexual abuse, behaviour of students and adults as well the relevant legal mechanisms and protocol of response to be followed by schools. The department will also prepare a standard safety self audit tool/checklist which schools will mandatorily have to complete and send a compliance report on.

Schools have also been instructed to strategically place safety boxes for receiving complaints and feedback across the campus. The feedback in this will be reviewed periodically by members of the committee on campus.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2021 9:17:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/student-safeguarding-advisory-committee-in-all-tn-schools/article34880796.ece

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