Mumbai: Rape-accused trustee rejoins Andheri school after bail, parents protest
The trustee of a reputed school in Andheri, out on bail in a case of allegedly raping a child, is back around kids on campus; a set of parents wants him to stay away till he is acquitted of all charges
The three-year-old survivor is no longer a student there, but other parents are also worried about their kids. Representation Pic/Thinkstock
Three months after the trustee of an international school in Andheri was arrested for allegedly raping a three-year-old student, he is back to work at the institute. Parents are unable to digest that even though he is yet to be cleared of the charges, the accused is now working in such close proximity to their children. Shockingly, when they expressed their objections, the management simply asked them to look for another school.
On December 18, 2017, as many as 42 parents signed a petition asking that the accused trustee be barred from the school until he was cleared of all charges. However, their request was met with silence. The conflict began on December 8, when parents were shocked to receive a circular informing them that the trustee had resumed work at the school. He had just been granted bail on November 24, but was yet to be cleared of the rape charges. The court also granted bail to a teacher who had been charged as his accomplice, for failing to report the alleged abuse.
The school email stated: "We are glad to announce that (name of the trustee withheld) has resumed attending school after months of police investigation… We hope for a swift ending to this extremely disturbing affair and expect normalcy to return in the life of all those who may have been affected by the affair, in particular the parents, teachers, staff and students. We need to deal with this traumatic event in the kindest way and we expect your help in this process."
While the survivor is no longer a student at the school, several parents refused to allow an alleged paedophile to work with their children. Before drafting their petition, a few parents even met the school management, but were shocked when the accused also walked in for the meeting. They were further frustrated by the management's lack of support over their concerns.
One of the parents told mid-day, "On December 10, five of us went for a meeting with a school official. During the meeting, the official teared up and said the trustee could not have done this. She said the school was doing its best, but if any parent was still unhappy, they could consider other options." He added, "We pointed out that the standard practice in the education sector is to suspend the individual until the case is closed. The school had asked the accused to stay away for all these months, so why has he now been allowed to resume duty when the case is still on?"
Trustee claims innocence
Around 45 minutes later, the accused walked into the meeting. He shook hands with everyone and spoke at length about the developments over the last six months. He said he was committed to making the school a safe place for children, and referred to the incident, claiming "nothing had happened". However, when one of the parents asked what would happen if he was proven guilty, the trustee retorted that the parent "should not think too much". Another parent asked the trustee if he would have allowed the accused to return to school had it been someone else. To this, the trustee answered in the affirmative. Only one of the parents in the meeting supported the school's decision to bring the trustee back. The meeting closed with assurances from the official to open channels of communication with the parents. She also offered to try and organise a meeting with all kindergarten parents, so that their concerns could be addressed.
The incident dates back to about a year ago, when the three-year-old survivor's parents noticed changes in her behaviour, and difficulty in sitting and walking. When they asked her if anyone had hurt her or touched her inappropriately, she pointed to a picture of the school trustee. An FIR was lodged against him in May 2017, but it was November 7 when the police arrested him. He was out on bail in just over two weeks.
With no sign of action even a week after their meeting at the school, the parents decided to submit a petition to the school on December 18. They wrote: "We are writing this letter in response to a letter sent via email by school officials, on 8 December 2017. The letter informed us that trustee alleged accused has been granted bail and has resumed his functioning in the school. As parents, we are deeply concerned by the school's decision to allow him to resume his activities in the school while the matter is still subjudice. It is against standard procedure in such cases, and raises concerns about the safety of children. We request you to kindly ensure that he does not come to the school till such time the case attains legal finality. We are confident the school will respond speedily and positively to our request."
Three Parents speak out
'The principal told us that there is no school without the trustee. What does that mean? Does it take one individual to run a school? Since last week, I have not been sending my child to school, because the trustee is there'
'Nobody is above suspicion when it comes to the safety and security of our children. Are we not aware of countless such cases of abuse around the world? In most cases, the criminals are not found for years, even decades'
'We have seen and heard how even adults who have been abused struggle to come to terms with the horrific reality. Here, we are talking of innocent children. Who speaks for them? Who fights for them? Who respects their rights?'
42 No. of parents petitioning against the trustee
17 No. of days the trustee was in jail
17 No. of weeks the school has not responded to the petition