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Friday, June 25, 2021

Suspended, Chennai teacher in cop custody over ‘sexual harassment’

The State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) have taken action in the case. A senior Chennai police officer said, “We are probing if we can trace individual complainants who are willing to give statements (for an FIR to be registered against the accused).”

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai |
Updated: May 25, 2021 7:05:05 am
“People in the village alleged that he was involved in some kind of jadu (magic) and that led to the attack,” Kalita said.

A teacher of a prominent Chennai school was placed under suspension on Monday after allegations of sexual harassment were raised against him by students through social media posts.

He was taken into police custody later in the evening.

The State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) have taken action in the case. A senior Chennai police officer said, “We are probing if we can trace individual complainants who are willing to give statements (for an FIR to be registered against the accused).”

The school management initially issued a statement saying the institution has zero-tolerance towards anything that adversely affects physical, emotional and psychological well-being of students. However, screenshots posted online by complainants stated that they had approached the school management (dean), and that there was allegedly no action against the accused.

The school subsequently said in the statement: “Contrary to what is mentioned, these kinds of allegations have not been brought to the attention of the management in the past. However, we are taking suo motu notice of the allegations and will take all necessary steps to address the situation in a free, fair and transparent manner.”

State school education minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi on Monday said strict action will be taken against the accused teacher after investigation.\

A senior police officer monitoring the probe said: “Most charges were about sexual advances he had (allegedly) made, and remarks (made) with a sexual overtone. The accused has been summoned for inquiry. There are many complaints along with screenshots…. Most allegations emerged on social media, especially on Instagram.”

The accused teaches Class XI and XII students. While multiple complaints were raised online, the police said they are trying to reach out to some of the anonymous complainants to get some formal complaints for a police inquiry.

The allegations first emerged on Sunday evening, on Instagram page of a prominent South Indian model, who is also an alumni of the school. After she published screenshots of complaints she had received from students, accusing the teacher (name withheld, as a formal case has not been registered yet) of inappropriate behaviours — these, according to the complaints, included allegedly sending a porn website link to students, inviting them for movies, making sexual remarks about students’ physique — the police said there were also complaints about recent incidents such as appearing for online classes allegedly wearing just a towel and making lewd comments on girl students.

After celebrities and some popular social media personalities took up the issue, DMK MP Kanimozhi demanded action. On Monday, she tweeted that she will inform the authorities concerned to take action against those involved, as also school authorities who failed to act against the complaint from the student.

While SCPCR was denied access to enter the school premises initially, the Crime against Women and Children, a special wing of Chennai City Police, stepped in. Jayalakshmi, an SP-rank officer, took charge and visited the school Monday to start a probe.

Later on Monday, as it became clear that the police were moving towards launching an investigation, sources in the school released a letter that had been sent to the accused teacher, informing him that he was placed under suspension for “some serious allegations of misconduct.”

More complaints emerged after Sunday evening from other schools as well, including those from students of another city school who alleged that a sports teacher harassed girl students, and a woman teacher slut-shamed girls and flirted with boys. “We are trying if any of them would file a complaint anonymously to register an FIR,” a police officer said.

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