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Sexual Harassment Reports Prompt Tamil Nadu Government To Issue Guidelines For All Schools On Students' Safety

Highlights

  1. Many schools in Tamil Nadu are working towards ensuring student safety
  2. Government guidelines suggest recording and reviewing online classes
  3. The government calls for orientation programmes on POCSO Act
Chennai: 

Arpita Susan Cherian, a class 11 student in Chennai is visibly worried as she keeps track of developments regarding allegations of sexual harassment levelled against teachers in her city and across Tamil Nadu. Recently, several students, from a top school in Chennai, turned the spotlight on an alleged sexual predator, a 59-year-old male teacher who was arrested under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012 following a massive social media uproar.

Harassment is something that happens a lot. Now to know it has come to even schools is scary, I was worried, said Arpita.

Also Read: A Gang-rape Of A 14-Year-Old From Bhopal Highlights The Dangers Of The Internet For Children

In Ramanathapuram, nearly 550 kms from Chennai, police arrested another school teacher for alleged sexual harassment of a class nine girl after phone conversations went viral. The accused was heard asking the child for sexual favours; asking the student to visit his house with her books, on the pretext of a class. Trying to persuade her to toe his line, he also told her that he had met many other girls at home, the same way.

In the backdrop of these cases, many schools have begun tightening their systems. Speaking to NDTV, Sunderathai Lazarus, Principal, Union Christian Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Chennai, said,

It's not even about whether the safety has been breached. Even if there is some kind of the child not feeling safe, we address it at that level.

Also Read: Bachpan Bacho Andolan Rescues Three Siblings From Bengaluru Being Sexually Abused By Their Own Uncle, Supported By Grandmother

Talking about the same, Susan Jacob, Principal, Union Christian Public School added,

No child should have the thought in their mind that they could be sent out or victimised.

Experts say it might be the beginning of a new culture of openness which is absolutely essential. Senior students Kundhavai Rani and T Theodore Anto Lenart studying in Chennai also welcome these steps. Kundhavai Rani, a student of class 12, said,

Because now this has happened and a word is out, everybody knows if it happens they can complain about it and steps can be taken.

Also Read: Minor Girls Sexually Abused By Landlord's Son; Accused Continues To Live In The Same Locality

Explaining the change on the ground Theodore, a student of Union Christian Matriculation Higher Secondary School, said,

Classes are being recorded. The principal is calling and asking us if there are any problems.

On June 21, Tamil Nadu government's school education department released guidelines for all schools on student safety along with a protocol for online classes. This included formation of a student safeguarding advisory committee, state-level central complaints centre with a hotline number and an email address, recording and reviewing of online classes and orientation programmes on POCSO Act.

Also Read: Satyarthi Movement's Bal Mitra Gram And Mukti Caravan Are Empowering Children To Protect Their Rights

The recent spike in online sexual exploitation and abuse of children owing to increased screen time and online coaching has raised concerns, underscoring the need for deterrents to protect children.

Similar guidelines should be made and implemented on the national level. Other state governments should also make guidelines so that children can't be sexually abused online and such incidents can be avoided. This is our demand, said Rakesh Senger, Executive Director, Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation.

Also Read: 14-year-old Sucked Into A Dark Web Of Rape And Sexual Abuse, Trafficker Out On Bail

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