TW: Sexual Harassment of Students and Minors
How the student-teacher power dynamic makes students vulnerable to harassment
Schools are ripe grounds for persistent harassment and grooming of minors. In a student-teacher relationship, there is a dangerous tilt in power, making it difficult for students to report sexual harassment, and as a result, making it easy for faculty to get away with being abusers. In Rajagopalan’s case, he had abused his position of power as a teacher and threatened students against reporting his behaviour.
When students came out to report to school authorities at schools such as Chettinad Vidyashram and Sushil Hari International, their allegations were repudiated, and in some cases even labelled as “overreacting” and “misinterpreting intentions”. The accused have also received a lot of support not just from school authorities but also from alumni, defending their actions.
This act of shutting down and gaslighting the harrassed creates another obstacle for students to come forward. Trapped in a cocoon of dismissive attitudes and victim-blaming, the students are still in danger.
Even when students do come forward and their complaints are taken on board, forms of punishment like suspension from work or arresting the perpetrator creates the illusion of justice served promptly and adequately — but is that true?
Strict action against perpetrators is necessary and mandatory. But beyond that, true justice can only be delivered when we can assure the students vulnerable to harassment that similar incidents will not repeat.
So, how can we address this?
We need a system that is more preventive than punitive. Justice would be more effective when it is oriented towards improving educational spaces for students rather than solely punishing the offender. Rigorous regulations need to be established, and school management must be held accountable, without any room to deflect blame. Only a change at a foundational level can counter the existing system of victim-blaming and gaslighting.
You can take a step towards ensuring long-term student safety. Sign our petition urging PSBB KK Nagar to take accountability and implement long-term structural plans in their school. If you would like to report incidents of any form of discrimination or harassment you have faced in school, you can head to this Google form or visit the @student_testimonies Instagram page to talk about your experience.