CHENNAI: Scores of students and alumni of the Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan group of schools and its associate institutions have accused some teachers of making sexually coloured remarks and advances towards them.
The incident has led to the suspension of one teacher, an inquiry set up by the School Education Department and an investigation by police officials.
The school management on Monday noon suspended a Class 12 teacher called G Rajagopalan from the KK Nagar Branch, after several students and alumni alleged that he sexually misbehaved with them . The accusations included actions like showing up to online class with just a towel, touching students inappropriately, asking them out for movies at off-hours, sharing pornographic links on groups and passing comments of a sexual nature on female students.
The incident came to light after Kripali, an alumni of the school collated and shared screenshots of many students sharing their ordeals of being allegedly harassed by the teacher. One of the screenshots shows a picture of him topless with only a cloth around his neck.
In the suspension memo, the PSBB management said, "Some very serious allegations of misconduct have been alleged against you and the same has come to the knowledge of the management from and through social media (sic)." The school added that he will be suspended pending further enquiry.
Rajagopalan teaches Accountancy and Business Studies and is also the class teacher for Class 12 G2 according to the school's website. This means that he has the phone number and academic details of all students in his class.
Students have shared their experiences anonymously. Alumni of PSBB have written a letter to Dean, Director and Correspondent of PSBB group of schools Sheela Rajendra demanding immediate suspension of the accused pending investigation.
Rajendra told The New Indian Express that PSBB is in the process of filing a police complaint.
"Even to us, it has been a shocking revelation to us since last night," she said, adding that the school has "taken some initial steps," to address the issue. "Whatever appropriate steps that need to be taken will surely be taken and dealt with fairly. Stringent action will be taken if it (the allegations) is true," she said asserting that the school will not tolerate harassment.
"Student interest will come foremost. There are no two ways about it," she asserted. Rajendra said the inquiry will be conducted by the appropriate authorities.
Responding to sexual harassment allegations against teachers from other branches of the group, she said they are currently investigating only allegations against Rajagopalan.
The alumni stated that Rajagopalan used to touch minor female students inappropriately during classes and made embarrassing and awkward remarks of a sexual nature. One of the screenshots shows him appearing topless in an online class with nothing but a cloth tied around his neck. The alumni alleged that he commented on their bodies and clothing. They have also started a campaign to legally handle the allegations.
Meanwhile, a senior police officer said, "Soon after information about the sexual harassment reached the top brass, a police team reached the school. The management was asked to provide a formal complaint." He said the school administration is yet to file a complaint. "We will proceed with legal action after that," he added.
The accused Rajagopalan was detained by the city police for questioning and police officers said they are yet to file a case on the matter.
Rajendra and PSBB KK Nagar principal Geetha Govindarajan jointly issued a statement on Monday, in response to the allegations. They said that the school has no knowledge of the harassment. "These kind of allegations have not been brought to the attention of the management in the past (sic)," they said, adding that suo moto action will be taken on them. They also stated there will be "zero tolerance towards any behaviour that adversely affects the physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing of our students."
These allegations attracted widespread support from politicians and celebrities. After this snowballed, students from a few other schools in the city have come forward making more harrowing allegations including an incident of a teacher having sexual intercourse with a minor student constituting statutory rape. The New Indian Express is not naming these schools awaiting a response from the management.
Responding to sexual harassment allegations against teachers from other branches of the group, Rajendra said they are currently investigating only allegations against Rajagopalan.
The screenshots went viral online drawing the attention of senior politicians including DMK MP Kanimozhi and Dayanidhi Maran and celebrities like singer Chinmayi Sripada. Kanimozhi said on Twitter: "The sexual harassment allegations against a commerce teacher in PSBB School, Chennai have been shocking. An inquiry should be conducted and action must be taken against those who are involved including school authorities who failed to act against the complaints from students. I promise to take this to the concerned authorities."
Another DMK MP Dayanidhi Maran said that the CBSE too should conduct an inquiry into the matter. School Education MInister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi said that the government will ensure that justice is reached in the issue.