The Tamil Nadu government on Thursday announced a series of measures to handle complaints of sexual harassment in academic institutions, just a day after a teacher at one of the top schools in Chennai was arrested over allegations of sexual misconduct during virtual classroom sessions. Chief Minister MK Stalin has ordered for the creation of a helpline for the state’s students where they can report any misconduct during online classes.
All the schools and colleges have been asked to record and review their online classes with two parent-teacher association representatives.
After complaints by students of the Seshadri Bala Vidhya Bhavan School in the city’s KK Nagar area.the teacher, who has been suspended, is facing charges under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The ARRESTED teacher has also been charged for outraging modesty and sharing sexually explicit material under the IT Act.
An expert committee will also be constituted in the state to formulate guidelines for online classes within a week. Cyber police have been directed to take swift action in these matters without any hardships for students.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights took note of the matter and asked the state police chief to take strict action against the teacher and send a report on the action taken.
“All the children should be provided with counselling and psycho-social support as children will be under psychological trauma. An action taken report along with the authenticated copies of the relevant documents may kindly be shared with the commission within three days of receipt of the letter,” Dr RG Anand, member of the panel said in a communique to Director General of Police, JK Tripathi.
Many former and current students have alleged sexual misconduct and inappropriate behaviour by the male teacher in person, during virtual classrooms and even through text messages. A screenshot shared, say students, shows him bare-chested wearing just a towel. A former student had collated all complaints and shared it without revealing the identity of the students.
A few others also alleged that the school knew about the alleged misconduct but chose to ignore it.
The school denied it had any knowledge of the teacher’s alleged behaviour and appealed to all concerned “to await the outcome of the investigation”.
“The school has always had a zero tolerance against any behaviour that adversely affects the physical, emotional and psychological well-being of our students,” the school said in a statement.
Former and present students of a few other schools have also shared sexual harassment allegations against a few teachers.