Separate committee to handle complaints from students, TN School Education Minister says

“It is important to receive such complaints and also ensure that genuine complaints are acted upon. We need an accessible system in place,” Minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi said

TN Minister of School Education Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi said on Tuesday that the department was considering setting up a separate committee to handle complaints of sexual abuse and harassment from students.

“It is important to receive such complaints and also ensure that genuine complaints are acted upon. We need an accessible system in place that can work on the ground, like how local CEOs on the field are in touch with the schools in their jurisdiction,” he said.

Stating that the police was enquiring into the allegations of sexual harassment against a faculty member of a private school in Chennai, Mr Mahesh said that the police department would take necessary action.

“While the School Education Department had issued guidelines for how online classes should be conducted, it is clear now that many schools are not strictly following them. We will go through the guidelines again and reiterate the best practices that schools need to follow,” he said, with regard to allegations about misconduct by the faculty member during online classes. He further emphasised the importance of all schools having an Internal Complaints Committee(ICC) under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace (POSH) Act.

School extends cooperation, denies receiving written complaints in the past

Following the arrest of their faculty member G. Rajagopalan on charges of sexual harassment, the school he is a part of put out a statement reiterating that they had never received any written complaint on the issue from anyone in the past.

In their statement, the school said that the issue was first brought to their attention through social media and that a formal enquiry into the conduct of the teacher has now been initiated.

“We have never received any written complaint on this matter from anyone. The behaviour of one teacher does not in any way detract from the highest standards of professionalism that our teachers uphold. For us our students’ welfare is absolutely sacrosanct,” the principal said, in the statement. The statement said that the school welcomes all assistance by the concerned authorities to deal with this situation and take needed action, and is also extending full cooperation. They also said that they have moved to swiftly suspend the teacher and taken steps to avoid this recurrence in the future.

“In our over 60 years’ legacy, we have never had such a situation with an errant teacher. It is a wake-up call for all schools and we have to be ever vigilant. We are constituting a special senior group, drawn from both legal and non-legal backgrounds, who will be guiding us to ensure that such incidents don’t recur again,” the dean of the school said.

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