The accounts expose the humiliation that students have had to put up with for years, and the fact that they had to turn to social media says a lot about the lack of empathy shown by schools.

Classroom with male teacher and female studentsImage for representation only/
news Child Sexual Abuse Thursday, May 27, 2021 - 18:52

The #MeToo movement first came to India in October 2017 when law student Raya Sarkar put together a list of professors in the academia who were allegedly involved in sexual harassment. A year later, another moment of reckoning came when several women in the media and cinema industries spoke out against workplace sexual harassment. And in 2021, it's the turn of school students to break their silence and call out the trauma that they face in educational institutions that are supposed to nurture them. This time, though, the conversation is not only about sexual harassment. It's also about casteism, body shaming, slut shaming, gaslighting and a host of other issues. Celebrities from singer Chinmayi to actor Gouri Kishan, cricketer R Ashwin and CEO of AGS Cinemas Archana Kalpathi have also been tweeting about the posts made on social media. But how did it all begin?

A few days ago, social media users started calling out standup comedians for casteist and bigoted content in their shows. Old clips of comedians such as Neville Shah and Saurabh Pant where they can be seen validating discrimination and bigotry began doing the rounds. Soon, problematic and casteist tweets and statements that celebrities and social media influencers had made in the past were screenshotted and called out — specially against former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and one of the tallest contemporary Dalit leaders in the country, Mayawati. Standup comedians like Karthik Kumar responded to the flak that the community was receiving by putting out statements and hosting discussions on Twitter Spaces. The Chennai standup scene has, in fact, been criticised for casteism even earlier, and a fresh round of discussions on them began.

This eventually moved to caste networking, and how several well-known social media influencers blatantly display their caste pride and bond over their respective caste identities. The name of a prominent educational institution in Chennai came up in this context. The school has been criticised on social media earlier too for caste exclusionary practices and Brahminism. Even as the discussions on caste in educational institutions was gathering steam on Twitter, on May 23, model Kripali on Instagram put up a request asking those who had studied in the school to get in touch with her. A former student herself, Kripali then began putting out allegations of sexual harassment made against G Rajagopalan, Business Studies and Accountancy teacher at the school.

The accounts, from both former and current students, displayed a pattern of predatory behaviour and included screenshots of inappropriate messages and even a visual of Rajagopalan appearing semi-naked for an online class. Within a few hours, the allegations went viral and on May 24, Rajagopalan was arrested by the police under the POCSO Act. In their accounts, the students had also alleged that despite repeated complaints to the school management, no action had been taken. While the school denied this, they were under overwhelming pressure from alumni, parents, politicians and media to acknowledge the seriousness of the issue, and they placed Rajagopalan under suspension and promised to take further action.

The news sent shockwaves across Chennai as PSBB is considered to be among the best schools in the city. But Kripali had merely opened the can of worms. Soon, allegations about other elite schools in the city began doing the rounds. What has emerged from the discussions is a toxic culture that is normalised in several schools.


Many social media users have spoken about how several CBSE schools in the city have normalised Brahminism, with students and teachers participating in discriminatory behaviour. Students from other castes face pointed questions, bullying and ostracism for their identities, appearance and food practices. They're also expected to follow the Brahminical practices advocated by the school.

Slut shaming

The onus on preventing sexual harassment is placed on girls in several educational institutions. Actor Gouri Kishan spoke to TNM about the slut shaming that she has faced in Hindu Senior Secondary School. The actor had previously tweeted about how casteism, body shaming and slut shaming are normalised in many educational institutions. "You are judged by the faculty for choices like wearing your uniform chudidar in a certain way, wearing a ponytail to school or a dangly earring or kajal to school. These are said to be done to distract boys and one's upbringing is questioned. These are scarring imprints on a child’s life, including myself. A lot of us have faced it firsthand,” she told TNM.

Other social media users have spoken about how schools police girls' bodies, even making personal comments about their underwear and how they should wear their dupatta. Sexist rules that allow boys greater freedom than girls are also normalised because educational institutions believe that girls must be restricted to prevent acts of sexual violence.

Read: Actor Gouri Kishan speaks up about toxic culture in schools

In fact, the photographs of Instagram user Kripali, who is a model, are being circulated along with slut shaming messages that question her credibility to raise such an issue.


While PSBB first denied any knowledge of sexual harassment complaints against G Rajagopalan, their later press release says that 'no written complaint' was made. However, several students have said that the school management was made aware of the teacher's objectionable behaviour but chose to ignore it. The denial is nothing but an attempt to gaslight the student community. This response, however, is common in several educational institutions.

Speaking to TNM, alumni from Chettinad Vidyashram, another prominent school in the city, recalled how they had approached the school management regarding child sexual abuse in the school. Far from being empathetic, the school reportedly told the alumni that students were already "exposed" — referring to consensual exchanges between peers — and that the management wasn't going to do anything about their staff's behaviour.

Read: ‘They knew, and they didn’t care’: Chennai schools’ #MeToo moment

Sexual harassment

Many more accounts of systematic sexual harassment and predatory behaviour by teachers in schools have come to light. From forcing students to sit on their laps to flashing their penis and forcing them to indulge in sexual acts, teachers and those in positions of authority have been misusing their power over the students.

Sexual assault and rape

Several disturbing allegations have been made against educational institutions such as Sushil Hari International School and Sastra University. Run by godman Siva Shankar Baba, the anonymous allegations made against Sushil Hari International School through Instagram, point at sexual assault and rape, and how students are forced to participate in humiliating sexual acts. The person who made the allegations has said that much of this is with the knowledge of other staff at the school, and is considered normal within the 'cult' behaviour of the community.

Instagram user Ramita Rajaa posted allegations against a staff member at Sastra University who had reportedly forced a student to perform oral sex on him.

In many of these cases, the students have added how the teachers would threaten them that they would cut their marks, lower their grades or reject their projects if they did not comply. While speaking out against systemic injustice and sexual violence takes a toll in itself, what is even more concerning is the lack of empathy shown by the schools towards the students. The accused in the PSBB case has been arrested but so far, only one complainant has come forward to file a formal complaint. In the other cases, the allegations remain on social media and it's yet to be seen if the schools take suo moto action.

The wide range of distressing issues raised may not lead to legal action in every instance but if schools and parents really care for student welfare, they should be working together to put in place effective mechanisms that empower students to speak up whenever necessary. Responding to the PSBB case, the Tamil Nadu government has announced the setting up of a helpline for students to register complaints. The government has also said that it will frame guidelines for conducting online classes, and invoke the POCSO Act for inappropriate behaviour by staff.

However, the change should also come from within school managements that seem to be more concerned about the reputation of their institutions and less about listening to the voices of the children. The fact that so many students had to take to social media to pour out their trauma points to the lack of trusted adults in their social circle. Rather than indulging in victim blaming or pretending that nothing is wrong, schools should be proactive in communicating with children, sensitising the staff, and putting in place a feedback mechanism to ensure that action is taken whenever necessary. In this aspect, so far, all the prestigious schools seem to have scored a big fat zero.

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