Coimbatore suicide: Principal held for ignoring sexual harassment complaint

The arrest of Chinmaya Vidyalaya’s principal comes two days after the arrest of its teacher who allegedly sexually harassed a 17-year-old student, leading to her suicide on Thursday

Representational photo: iStock

A day after Coimbatore city police arrested a 31-year-old teacher of Chinmaya Vidyalaya, a prominent school at RS Puram, on charges of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl and abetting her suicide, police arrested the school’s principal under the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act in Bengaluru on Saturday (November 13) for failing to take action against the teacher even after receiving a complaint from the victim.

According to police, the girl was sexually harassed by the teacher for almost six months and the matter came to light only after she committed suicide by hanging herself on Thursday. The teacher Mithun Chakravarthy, was arrested under section 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 9(l) (whoever commits sexual assault on the child more than once or repeatedly) of the POCSO Act, after the girl’s parents levelled allegations of sexual harassment against him.

T Jayachandran, Deputy Commissioner of Police (North Zone), Coimbatore city said that the school’s principal failed to take action against the teacher even after the girl complained to her about the harassment. “We have booked a case under the POCSO act against the principal Meera Jackson and two special teams were formed to arrest her. We have already arrested one accused and he was sent to judicial custody on Friday. We are continuing our investigation,” Jayachandran said.

The Principal was booked under section 21 (Punishment for failure to report or record a case) of POCSO Act.

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Victim harassed for six months before suicide

On Saturday, the victim’s family told police that they will not receive the body of the girl until the school’s principal Meera Jackson is arrested. Jackson reportedly was transferred to another branch of the school recently.

District collector GS Sameeran held a meeting with the victim’s parents and other organisations, urging them to receive the body before 11 pm.  He assured them the government would stand by them.

The victim’s mother said that her daughter, a student of Class 12 at Chinmaya Vidyalaya, had been studying at the school since Class 6 and had pleaded her to change the school. The girl had, however, kept mum when the mother asked the reason behind changing the school. After her repeated requests, the girl’s parents had shifted her to another school two months ago.

The girl’s mother said that it was only recently that she learnt that her daughter had been sexually harassed by one of the teachers in her past school for around six months and that she used to cry inconsolably at home without revealing the reason.

“My daughter had informed about the incident to the school’s principal. But she not just failed to take action against the teacher, but also advised my daughter not share the incident with us. The principal had also asked her to forget the incident just the way she would forget if someone bumped into her in the bus,” the victim’s mother said.

According to the FIR, the teacher had been speaking with the victim through video chats and messages since 2020 and in March 2021 the girl had started going to school to participate in a science exhibition. “At times when the victim’s father got delayed at work, the teacher would drop her at home,” the FIR added.

One of the victim’s friends said that the accused teacher had asked the girl to come to the school on a particular day a few months ago and had sexually harassed her. “She told me about the incident about three months later and we immediately complained about it to the school principal. But the principal accused her of going on a bike with the teacher and asked her not to share about the incident with anyone,” he added.

Even though the principal assured to sack the teacher immediately, she did not do so until a couple of months ago, the victim’s friend said, adding that she had been depressed and struggling to deal with the trauma of the harassment.

What WhatsApp chats, audios reveal?

Meanwhile, police have included the WhatsApp chats and an audio recording of a phone conversation allegedly between the victim and the teacher in the investigation.

In the audio, the girl is heard asking the teacher whether he had behaved with other girls in the same way as her and he refuses it.

“The only time I slipped is in your case. I have eight years of experience as a teacher and it has never happened. Any of your seniors told such a thing about me? It was completely accidental and not intentional. Your choice of words is hurting me,” the teacher is allegedly heard saying.

Claiming that he had not slept peacefully since the incident and faced several hardships since then, he says, “I regret whatever has happened. Virginity is not just for girls, it is also for men.”

When the girl tells him about her decision to complain to the management, the man mopes about it, telling her that she intends to “ruin everything”. The teacher also tells her that he has not disturbed her since the incident and has even deleted her number.

In one of the chats, the girl tells the teacher that she had been trying to avoid him, but has failed. “You are a teacher and I did not know how to avoid. I thought doing so portrays me in a bad light,” she texts him, requesting him to leave the school as a favour. The teacher agrees to do so once the recruitment starts.

Students demand justice for victim

Meanwhile, members of outfits like Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam (TPDK), Students Federation of India (SFI), All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), activists Valarmathi, Sabarimala and students of the private school gathered at the CMCH premises on Saturday, demanding justice for the victim. They also demanded a compensation of ₹50 lakhs for the family members from the school management.

“It is the responsibility of the school management to prevent sexual harassment at schools. Accused would be arrested and produced before the law. We would ensure the safety of women,” Chief Minister MK Stalin tweeted.

DMK MP Kanimozhi also demanded action against the school management.

Makkal Needhi Maiam founder president Kamal Haasan in a tweet sought action against those responsible for the suicide of the minor girl.

PMK founder S Ramadoss tweeted that the teacher has created a bad name for the teacher’s society. “Even though the teacher was arrested, police should take action against the school management for failing to prevent such an incident,” he said.

 

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