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Tamil Nadu issues guidelines to prevent sexual harassment during online classes

There has been a growing demand for new guidelines on online classes following recent sexual harassment cases lodged against faculty members of a couple of schools in the state.

Written by Janardhan Koushik | Chennai |
Updated: June 21, 2021 8:19:05 pm
Tamil NaduThe school education department will set up within a month a state-level central compliance centre with a hotline facility as well as a dedicated e-mail address in a month.

Advisory committees in every school, a central compliance cell and a self-audit tool are among the measures that have been laid down in the guidelines issued by the Tamil Nadu government on Monday to ensure protection to students from sexual harassment while attending online classes. The rules will be applicable for all schools across the state.

There has been a growing demand for new guidelines on online classes following recent sexual harassment cases lodged against faculty members of a couple of schools in the state.

As per the guidelines, every school will have to constitute a ‘student safeguarding advisory committee’ comprising the principal, two teachers, two parent-teacher association members, a management representative, a non-teaching staff and an external member (optional) to continuously review and monitor the situation and issue recommendations on all aspects of students’ safety.

The school education department will set up within a month a state-level central compliance centre with a hotline facility as well as a dedicated e-mail address. This compliance cell will be the nodal centre for receiving all complaints of sexual harassment — whenever the student safeguarding advisory committee in any school receives a complaint, it will have to inform the state-level cell.

The nodal centre will have a trained multidisciplinary team drawn from different fields who will attend to callers who have complaints or queries. All interaction between this centre and callers will be documented but kept strictly confidential.

The purpose of the central compliance cell is to offer an alternate complaint mechanism and provide guidance on the protocol to be observed so that all complaints received are addressed appropriately.

Moreover, an orientation programme will be organised for all stakeholders associated with each school to acquire a comprehensive understanding of provisions of the POCSO Act.

The school education department will develop a standard safety self-audit tool with steps which must be completed annually by all members of the school management annually. The guidelines also state that during online classes, both faculty members and students should observe dress code suitable for classroom settings.

All online classes should be recorded and a random audit should be undertaken by a quorum of the student safeguarding advisory committee periodically.

Safety boxes will be placed in school campuses to receive complaints and feedback. It should be reviewed by the student safeguarding advisory committee and appropriate action should be taken.

Moreover, a separate register should be maintained by the student safeguarding advisory committee to document all complaints received through all modes of communication, including plaints received orally.

The guidelines also stated that all schools should observe the ‘Child Abuse Prevention Week’ from November 15 to November 22 annually through an awareness programme.

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