July 1, 2019
State Govt serves strong notice to schools on the issue of sexual harassment
The State Government has issued a notice to schools on steps to be taken to prevent sexual harassment of students. Significantly, the steps notified in the notice are applicable not only to the State Government-run,-aided and –sponsored schools, but to all private schools in Bangla too.
As per the notice, a three-tier system of nodal committees would be set up – at the State level, district level and subdivision level. If any school, be it under the State board, or ICSE or CBSE, is noted to be flouting any of the instructions in the notice, the nodal committee would take appropriate action.
At the school level, every school has been asked to set up a Student Safety and Security Monitoring Committee to deal with cases of sexual harassment.
There are two parts of the set of instructions: one is on what to do to prevent incidents of sexual harassment, and another on what to do in case any such incident tales place.
Often it has been seen that students are hesitant to come forward with their complaints in such cases. To tide over this issue, every school needs to keep a suggestion box, where any student can drop in their written complaints. A student affected by such an incident would have the independence to join any other school of their choice or even continue in the same school.
The steps that need to be taken to prevent cases of sexual harassment, as outlined in the notice:
- The school has to find out all background information regarding a candidate for the post of teacher or staff. The concerned candidate would also have to give a self-declaration saying whether there is any case of sexual harassment or any criminal case against them.
- The self-declaration needs to be given by all currently-employed teachers and staff too.
- Schools need to hold workshops to teach about good touch and bad touch, and the bodily changes that occur at puberty.
- Schools also need to hold annual workshops to make teachers and staff aware of all sexual harassment-related issues.
- Any unnatural behaviour on the part of a student has to be inquired into. If a staff (aaya, cleaner or anybody else) notices any such unnatural behaviour, they need to report it to the higher school authority, who would then inform the guardian of the student.
- Detailed information about every student – home address, phone number, etc. – needs to be kept by schools.
- The phone numbers of the police station under whose jurisdiction a school falls, as well as those of the latter’s nearest hospitals need to be kept by the school as well as informed about to the guardians.
- Schools need to hold periodic meetings with students regarding sexual and mental harassment. The minutes of the discussions need to be noted down.
- If rehearsals for school programmes are held after school hours, teachers need to be present at the place of rehearsal.
- Following of the above instructions would be monitored by the Student Safety and Security Monitoring Committee. Besides teachers, senior school students and guardians would be members of the committee.
The steps that need to be taken in case an incident happens, as outlined in the notice:
- If a case of sexual harassment happens, all information and proofs need to be collected and kept in a safe place, and then the police needs to be called within 24 hours and all information and material proofs handed over.
- The names of both the affected student and the accused must not be revealed to the public.
- Physical examination of the affected student at a government hospital is compulsory. If necessary, it needs to be done even before police is informed. Schools need to have facilities for physical examination of an affected student, in case it becomes difficult to take the student to a hospital.