Published: 22nd July 2021
Chennai schools directed to launch complaint forums for reporting child sexual abuse
The move comes after the Madras High Court directed the state government to launch complaint boxes for victims of child sexual abuse. Activists however claim that they are rarely used by the schools
After a couple of teachers were arrested following complaints from students that they were sexually assaulted in schools and even during online classes, Chennai schools have launched virtual complaint boxes to complain against misbehaving teachers.
Schools have created Google forms on their websites to lodge complaints and some schools have created exclusive email ids for registering complaints. While the virtual complaint boxes were launched a couple of days ago, no school has yet reported a case relating to the Prevention of Children Against Sexual Offenses (POSCO) Act.
Justice P Velmurugan of the Madras High Court had on July 19 directed the Tamil Nadu state government to install complaint boxes in schools for children to lodge complaints against sexual abuse on school premises. The Judge also said that this would help students come forward without any hesitation to lodge complaints against the top functionaries in the school including the managing committee, teaching, and non-teaching staff.
Justice Velmurugan also ordered that the keys of the complaint boxes have to be in the custody of the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) and the agency should check the complaint boxes kept in schools every week. The District Social Welfare Officer must also be with the DLSA during the inspection of these boxes, the court ruled. The complaints if any should be forwarded to the police.
The judge also directed to constitute district level committees comprising officials from DLSA, Social Welfare department, women police officers, psychiatrists and physicians from government hospitals to support and help children in need of emotional backing.
The directive was given while confirming the conviction imposed by a Mahila court in Salem against pastor S Jayaseelan for having abused a school girl in 2013.
Meanwhile, principal of Velammal Vidyalaya in Chennai, Shyamala Subbu told IANS, "We have created strong monitoring systems to make children safe and added that the school has a silent teacher or observer who attends every online class and whose presence and identity is not revealed. The observer reports to the superiors as to how classes are being taken."
However, Child Rights activists and NGOs said that while complaint boxes are put up in schools, they are used rarely. Sujit Kumar Menon, Director, Thanal, an NGO, working among children, told IANS, "Schools have to report POSCO cases if any to the law enforcement agencies and not to conduct their own investigations. The POSCO cases are to be properly taken up as this affects the child's physical and psychological behaviour in the long run. Help from professionals should be immediately sought."