Child Protection Policy in Schools
Child Protection Policy
While statistics indicate that the closed walls of a domestic environment are most conducive for child sexual abuse, institutional abuse is an entirely different arena as the two recent high-profile cases, one at a Kodaikanal school and another at an international school in Hyderabad, have revealed yet again.
In both cases, top school officials allegedly sexually abused the victims inside the campus. It’s not just on the campus, children are abused in playgrounds by teachers, coaches and sometimes even by those who make a living as clowns in parties, say activists.
“At least in schools and other institutions where children are engaged, we can enforce guidelines to prevent the possibility of child sexual abuse,” say activists. They explain that the first step towards providing a safe environment for students would be for schools to have a child protection policy (CPP). “While CPP is mandatory in CBSE schools, several private schools from other boards are not even aware of its importance,” they say.
When this newspaper contacted the managements of a few private schools in the city, the response was mixed. Most mid-level schools in middle-class neighbourhoods had not even heard of the policy. A few school managements claimed that they did conduct some awareness programmes regarding the issue and that they even had a policy. However, many had no clue on what the policy was.
“When parents complain of abuse in schools, the immediate reaction of private managements is to hush up the issue and, in some cases, fire the accused. No private school has initiated criminal proceedings against a teacher accused of molesting children,” says Vidya Reddy of NGO Tulir. “Government schools fare slightly better.”
According to child psychiatrist Dr Mohan Raj, some of the common symptoms that could possibly indicate if the abuse took place in school would be the child’s refusal to go to school, or a sudden loss of interest in studies accompanied by erratic behaviour.
“But, there is no hard and fast rule. The best thing to do is to talk to the child about school and make him/her feel comfortable about discussing all matters concerning school,” says Dr Raj.