Meanwhile, Education minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi on Tuesday has stressed on the need for committees to be set up.

VCK MP Ravikumar
news Child Sexual Abuse Tuesday, May 25, 2021 - 18:57

In the wake of the arrest of a teacher for alleged sexual harassment in Chennai, Villupuram Member of Parliament (MP) Ravikumar on Tuesday, May 25, wrote to Tamil Nadu Education Minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi, urging him to take immediate action to prevent more such instances in schools across the state. In a letter to the minister, Ravikumar cites a handbook prepared by the  National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development (NIPCCD), under the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development, on the implementation of the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012. He also sought the minister to fix a deadline for all schools in the state to submit reports on whether the rules of the POCSO Act are being followed.  

The handbook contains details such as the definition of child sexual harassment, how to recognise and report it, legal interventions and importantly, what steps educational institutions can take to prevent it. A few of these measures include conducting a background check on all staff, education of staff and students on child sexual abuse, as well as forming a redressal committee consisting of the Principal of the institution, one male and one female member of teaching staff, one male and one female student and a non-teaching staff member. In his letter, Ravikumar mentions that though the handbook contains such comprehensive guidelines, they are not followed by many private schools. 

Read: What is the POCSO Act and how is it used: A guide

Read: PSBB teacher accused of child sexual harassment, school accused of inaction

The MP further said that, following the eight-point guidelines defined by the NIPCCD handbook, a child protection monitoring committee should be set up in every school in the state, and that it should convene frequently. There should also be a representative to facilitate communication with government agencies, including the police. 

With schools shifting online amid the pandemic, the handbook also has provisions for the safety of children online. These include directions like teachers must not email students for any purpose apart from work-related activities, teachers must not engage with students through their personal social media accounts except for approved group settings, and the establishment of internet safety protocols in every school. Students must also not be photographed or videographed without their consent. 

On Sunday, May 23, over a dozen current and former students of a prominent private school in Chennai complained about being sexually harassed by a teacher of the school, G Rajagopalan. Following the complaints, police arrested him late on Monday, May 24. “...If all the above-mentioned rules were practiced, then the incidents would not have occurred in the school," Ravikumar mentioned in his letter to the Education Minister.

Read: Chennai police arrests teacher Rajagopalan, accused of sexual harassment

The VCK member further said, "There are chances that sexual harassment like the one in the well-known school might occur in private and government schools across the state. Hence, the TN Education Minister should fix a time frame and receive a report to check if the POCSO Act is followed in the schools."

Meanwhile, Education minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi on Tuesday has stressed on the need for committees to be set up. "Guidelines have been given, but not everyone is following it. It is important that a committee is set up in school to handle sexual harassment complaints by students," he said.