How a single incident turned into a massive bullying conspiracy in a Kerala school

The inquiry by school authorities and school management committee that consists of the majority of parents, police and Deputy Directorate of School Education could identify only one incident that has some basis to the allegations.
Cotton Hill school protest
Cotton Hill school protest
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Earlier this week, a series of voice notes, purportedly of a girl student from Government Girls Higher secondary school, Cotton Hill in Thiruvananthapuram did the rounds on social media. The voice notes, which was later played on many news channels, made serious allegations against the school. The girl started the conversation saying one of her sister’s classmates was made to run through the school by a few seniors, who later threw some sort of gas on her. Following which, the Class 5 student, who was suffering from asthma was admitted to the hospital. This was the only part in the conversation that was partly true, while the rest still remains a mystery.

The voice claimed that many students were similarly attacked in the school and that a student was asked to jump off a building and when she refused to do so, she was assaulted and her bones were broken. The girl also claimed that others were assaulted badly in the toilet. The girl in the audio further alleged that a five-member clique did this as part of a game challenge in which many children were assaulted inside the campus. She says when teachers came for inspection, they found children fallen on ground after severe assault. She also said that she saw some of the assaulted kids who were under treatment in PRS hospital in Thiruvananthapuram. As the voice notes went viral, what followed was panic, to the extent that it became tough to differentiate fact and fiction.

The Class 5 student mentioned in the voice note, was allegedly bullied by some seniors, according to her mother Chithra. “On July 21, my child who is 10-years-old, was bullied by a few senior students. She tried to run away, but those students pulled her hair. They made her run through the corridor and since she has asthma, she was exhausted. She was in the hospital for two days. In fact, the school authorities know who these senior students are. They are hiding it. That evening, her class teacher contacted me and asked why I complained to the police even though my child is fine. So should I wait for something tragic to happen to complain?” Chithra, told the media. However, Chithra said that there was no ‘gas’ involved in the incident, as claimed in the voice note.

Though the controversy has been raging for days, no parent, other than Chithra, has come forward with complaints of any serious bullying or assault. An inquiry by school authorities, school management committee, that consists of the majority of parents, police and Deputy Directorate of School Education could identify only the one instance of Chitra’s daughter being bullied.

When TNM inquired at PRS hospital, authorities said that only Chithra’s daughter had been admitted there due to her asthma. Even the Museum Police station said they have received just Chithra’s complaint and have not been able to identify any similar incident.

However, things got more confusing on July 25 Monday, when a group of parents, around 20 to 25 people, protested in the school campus alleging that some senior students were indeed bullying younger children. Cotton Hill school, considered to be one of the largest girl schools in Asia, is the most prominent government school in the district.

The group of parents held a meeting with the school headmaster on Monday. Chithra alleged that the meeting was a failure as the school authorities or the representatives of parents-teachers association denied that any such bullying incidents had occurred at school. “They alleged that we cooked up stories to tamper the image of the school. The school is trying to hide the incidents,” Chithra added. Speaking to the media, many parents have alleged that school authorities are not taking them seriously when they complain about bad experiences of their children.

“At present, Class 5 students are the ones who have mainly come forward to complain. Their complaints are that some senior students harass them regularly, force them to jump from the top of the building, push them down while they go to the wash area, ask them to flush the toilet after these seniors use it, hit them and so on,” said one staff member.

Speaking to TNM, Mridula (name changed), a parent, was of the opinion that incidents, which are otherwise considered normal among children, were being taken too seriously. “Every student will have some fight with others, so when this incident popped up, everything else was considered as ragging. After this issue came out, even my daughter, who is in Class 6, told me one of her seniors who is in Class 7, once had a quarrel with her,” she said.

Mridula pointed out a comment made by another parent on Facebook. Below a live video that Chithra had done on her daughter’s issue, one parent wrote that her daughter who was in Class 3 hit her face on the floor, when she was pushed by another student from Class 4. “Everything is being clubbed as bullying or harassment as the voice notes created panic,” asserts Mridula.

Neither school authorities nor police could trace any other students who were badly injured as claimed in the viral voice note. “The allegation is that many students were found fallen near the toilet area, severely assaulted. Where are those children, where are their parents, what kind of allegation is that? There is some planned propaganda behind all these,” said a teacher from the school.

The School Management Committee Chairperson Pradeep Kumar who is also a parent, said there was nothing to suggest such incidents happened regularly in the school. “There was just one incident where a girl with asthma was involved in a tussle with other students and she was admitted to the hospital. Next day, a radio jockey came on Facebook claiming this was an incident of ragging and it was widespread. Even the DDE conducted an inquiry and no such incidents were found,” Pradeep Kumar said. He also alleged that the children of some among the protesting parents did not even study in the school.


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