The death of innocence

What’s the point in having a blog if I don’t air my grievances?

Here’s my recent one.

My son’s classmate was molested in school. She’s three and a half.

Her only fault is , she’s born to parents who are not aggressive. Who are unaware of their rights as parents. Who are not capable of taking the school to task.

I came to know of it by chance. When I contacted the mother on an issue not connected to school.

It was 2 weeks after the incidence, when she blurted it out to me . Said she’s been meeting people in school, but though in the beginning the school authorities seemed supportive, they refused to admit the offender was a staff of the school. They tried to brush it off by saying it could have happened in the restroom when she went unaccompanied. The offender could have been a cleaner who’s not in their rolls. From an agency whose under a contract with the school. But we’ll make sure from now on all the students will be accompanied to the restroom by an ayah.

She told them that she had her daughter examined by a doctor who was horrified and said she was lucky that her daughter spoke to her about it. There are lot of children who silently suffer because they’re too young to know that its an offence. What if he’s still lurking in school? He might try the same thing on another child.

The school did not take her seriously and made her sign a letter in English. Its content was not explained to her.

I was furious and told her the school had given her the brush off because she’s not aggressive. I promised to round up some more parents and confront them together.

During the course of the weekend, me & a fellow-parent called as many parents we could. We joined forces, entered the school only to find the coordinator too busy to meet us. When we raised a hue & cry, another coordinaor who hasn’t heard the problem before (we believe you) came forward to address us. After we briefed her on what had happened, she assured us that the school will take necessary action and how they’re equally concerned, but we as parents should not spread this among other parents since it’ll damage the school’s reputation. Fair enough, we said. Catch the offender and kick him out and we’ll keep our promise.

She asked us to wait in the lobby, till the Kindergarten coordinator and the principal came back from whatever was keeping them.

So we waited.

A little later the affected parents walked into the office again to see if they can secure a picture of the employees of the school, so they can make their daughter identify the offender at home when she was in the right mood.

The minute they went inside office, The principal and 2 more coordinators came back, hijacked them into the Principal’s office, before we had the chance to join them.

We waited outside, even after our kids had come back from their classes and were ready to go home.

The parents emerged a while later to tell us the Principal was furious that they’d told other parents. And had asked her to send us home, since she had no time to speak to us.

“We are taking necessary action. You can tell the other parents the same” was her instruction to the parents.

We have a handful of celebrity parents at school and its hilarious to see the correspondent & the princi fawn all over them whenever they walk in to drop or pick up their kid.

They even held up the Annual day celebrations till all the celebrity parents had taken their seats in the auditorium.

It got me thinking, will she have reacted the same way had it been a parent who’d been atriculate in English and was well-connected?

Had we been told so subtly to get out of their premises, if one of us waiting parents had been a celebrity?

And you know what takes the cake?

When a friend called the school to find out if this incident about child abuse was true, the coordianator tells her breezily, “oh, nonsense! the mother is mentally disturbed due to some harassment at home and is just spreading stories…”

Even if that’s true, how will a father go through his wife’s stories and bring harm to his own daughter’s name?

Which mother, however disturbed, would say something so shocking about her own daughter?

For what gain?

The child is now undergoing counselling to come out of the trauma. The parents are harrowed and has totally lost faith in people.

Now my ego is hurt too, because I’m not entitled to see the principal to address any issue because I’m not a celebrity mom.

A friend told me this is the trend with schools. They’ll never admit to any mistakes on their part and hush up anything unpleasant. When a similar incident occurred at her daughter’s school (very reputed school in the city for years, by the way) the parents had to fight tooth and nail to kick out the offender. The explanation the school gave was that he was on their roll for 30 years and they just cannot dismiss him in one day.

I’m depressed to see schools take the offender’s side (however subtle) to safeguard their reputation than the child side, whose whole life is ruined.

I’m pulling my son out of this school where the discrimination is so high even in such a serious issue as child abuse.

I’ shall try once more to see the principal to get my son’s transfer certificate if not for anything else. (Not that he needs it for preschool)

And if I get the brush off again, I shall reveal the school’s name here.

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12 Comments

  1. rekharaghav said,

    March 11, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    Oh my gosh! That is terrible. I would never be able to get over it if it happened to my daughter! Seriously what a beast to do this to a 3 and half year old.
    Another cause for concern is that even if they get rid of this offender, will they stop him from going to other schools? what if he goes to another school and does the same thing? These guys should be put in jail!

    You’re so right… Unfortunately, the system here is so skewed, people get away scot-free…

  2. Geoff Brown said,

    March 11, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    Without knowing all the facts, I’d say it seems like this school is not only avoiding its responsibility to prevent child abuse, but even working against that goal. In all 50 states, teachers are “mandated reporters”, which means they are required to report any “reasonable suspicion” when they see signs of child abuse. Even in a well-meaning school, though, there’s a problem. Most teachers don’t know how to talk to a student who might be a child abuse victim. They often make serious mistakes, jeopardizing future prosecution and making it hard to establish the “reasonable suspicion” which requires that they report the abuse. Now there’s a new online role-playing course which lets teachers rehearse a conversation with a possible child abuse victim. There’s a free version and a CEU-credit version for teachers. Hopefully this will help teachers at all schools — especially the one discussed here — to fulfill their legal responsibility to report child abuse.

    Hey, thanks for the link. I went thru it and definitely pass it on to the teachers.

  3. Anoop said,

    March 12, 2008 at 6:36 am

    that’s so shocking – and whats even more ridiculous is to hear the school’s stand on this. did the girl identify the guy? isn’t it possible to get snaps of guys working at the school via some other mode etc? that guy should be beat to death if possible and he should never ever even think of doing this to another child. Morons!! if only there was a proper governing body to which a complaint can be put forward – sigh!!

    The girl says she can identify the guy. But the doc who examined her said, she’ll be further traumatised if she comes face-to-face with him again. So right now our focus is to help the child to get back to normalcy…
    And the school now says they’re sure its not any of their employees and are investigating it further.

  4. maami said,

    March 12, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Horrible.
    In a city like Madras where there’s high concern for conformity and obediance to authority, it is despicable that accountability is not given that much importance.
    The parents will kow tow, the school authorities will act high-handed and indifferent.If it’s a local school you can tip off the press;if it’s an international school you can bring it to the notice of the school’s headquarters and head office via e mail.Do what it takes;but not remain mute. If we don’t voice our protest, the offenders will be emboldened to commit further acts of paedophilia.

    Ya, we’ve dashed off an email to the school’s headquarters. Lets see what happens.

  5. Lakshmi said,

    March 13, 2008 at 9:22 am

    Hi Paddu,
    you go girl! You are doing the right thing. Police should get involved. Maybe the doctor can help give a certificate. It is tough for any parent to publicize this, even though my brain is saying that it should be done.
    We’ve been talking to our kids about this -tough, but figure it is better they know in order to be recognize it. Our cub scout troop has a guide which makes it easier to talk about this. Your toddler may be too young, but you can tell him some basics or ask once in a while specific questions. obviously this goes for all parents.
    here are a couple of links from scouts that I googled. I’ve used the second booklet -it talks about other forms of abuse also, which I found useful also.

    http://old.scouting.org/pubs/ypt/pdf/46-221.pdf
    http://old.scouting.org/pubs/ypt/pdf/46-015.pdf

    Good Luck. If I were in your place, I wouldn’t take on the war alone.. or even lead one. Let police handle or the press (as Maami pointed out).

    Thanx! Its a little delicate right now for me because the child’s mom is worried about her daughter’s future… I for my part have spread the word around and is frantically trying to secure a place for my son in another school. Went to a couple of schools yesterday. Going to another one now. Admissions are closed everywhere in January… I’m totally mixed up:(

  6. 10yearslate said,

    March 14, 2008 at 3:52 am

    This is a sad topic. Has been, is and will be prevalent as long as adults who haven’t been pyschometrically analysed are in charge of Children.

    Currently is playing out in Melbourne, a city in a ‘developed’ country with mandatory background checks for adults working with children.

    http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2008/03/13/1205126111228.html

    Read the article… Really sad…

  7. Pradeep said,

    March 15, 2008 at 12:15 am

    My God!! Shocking!
    Why don’t you tip off CNN-IBN or NDTV? They are capable of doing a story without revealing the child’s name..

  8. Harish Ramaswamy said,

    March 19, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    Oh my god!
    Im shocked! I cant believe all this is happening and its all hushed.

    I think you should talk to these “celebrity” parents and explain again. If they say no, tell them that this molestor could do this to their ward too. It is of least importance whether the management is giving them that importance, its their child who is more important and they should understand that. try explaining. these celebrity parents could probably do something.

    and i cant believe the parents are being so quiet about this. however less aggressive they are. Their daughter, JUST THREE AND A HALF YEARS OLD, has been physically abused and this is going to leave a mark on her forever. I just wish they would understand. And to top it all, they re sending her back to school. the place she dreads.

    I think its absolutely legal for them to go SUE the management. if anything happens to jeopardise their security, they can complain that also.

    I just wish the parents understood how serious this was. Try making them read this.

    Its sad, but that’s the way things are. one of the celebrity parent apparently called the school, but was assured that it was just a rumor… Now that I’ve done my bit, I’m just getting out of the scene…

  9. Ambrosexi said,

    March 26, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    thats for sure, man

  10. Vanavil said,

    March 31, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    Padmaja-

    So shocking!!Feel extremely sorry for the lil girl.I am just extremely worried reading this.
    Could you just highlight how the mom actually found out that the girl was molested?like behavioural/physical changes.I am also a mom and whilst I know how to track things like these by reading material about child abuse,I would like to know as a mom how she actually had her doubts or what the child actually told her.
    I dont know how this can be written subtely,but Padma can you do that?Both boys and girls can be targets of child abuse and as parents it is very important for us to know how this can be tracked.
    I had enrolled my girl for a Karate-self defence class here in the US and in the first few classes she was taught about ‘Stranger Danger'”(never ever to talk to strangers or get anything from them or go near their car or acknowlege even a ‘hi’ when grownups are not around) and as to how to react (to scream and run to a place where more people were there) when she encounters strangers and also about Correct/Incorrect Touch from Unknown & Known People.
    After the first session,I could not let her continue on with the second one.I am definitely going to let her pursue once the next session resumes.
    I think we all need to educate and train them with regard to this.

  11. June 25, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    […] 25, 2008 at 4:25 pm (kids, parents, schools) After that horrendous experience in my son’s school last March, I had frantically tried most of the good schools I could think […]

  12. PS said,

    July 3, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Hi – I write to request some help. My niece is now 3 and we are looking for a school in Chennai for her. I happened across this post of yours while looking for something else on the net and it shocked me. I understand your reasons for not revealing the name of the school here, but if it is possible to get in touch with you personally for this information, I would be very grateful indeed.

    Thank you very much,

    PS.


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