The Case of Mr.Rajagopalan and What It Revealed About School Safety in India
TW: Sexual Harassment of Students and Minors
On May 24th, 2021, a series of damning screenshots began circulating online on Instagram. These screenshots started with a minor studying in a well-reputed private school in Chennai reaching out to an alumna for help. More and more students began coming forward with their stories, most of them disturbing and all of them dismissed by their school. As the details piled up, so did the evidence.
The screenshots went on to show Whatsapp exchanges where the adult party persisted in crossing the limits of his profession with suggestive comments, sexual innuendos, and movie invitations extended towards his minor students. It progressed to students’ accounts of inappropriate touching, pornographic links shared on class groups, and the image of a man in an online class wearing nothing but a towel.
On May 25th, based on all the evidence compiled, Mr G. Rajagopalan, an Accountancy and Business Studies teacher at Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan Senior Secondary School (PSBB) in KK Nagar, Chennai and part of its faculty for over two decades, was arrested under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, the Indian Penal Code, and the IT Act, with charges of sexual harassment of children and transmitting obscene material in electronic form.
As the outpour of student complaints against him became increasingly visible on social media, the PSBB School administration was forced to acknowledge the allegations against him. But they claimed not to have known about the ongoing harassment before the internet outrage. Mr. Rajagopalan was arrested after hours of questioning and suspended from his educational duties on May 27th.
Student safety has been violated for a long time
Less than a week later, another teacher from PSBB was arrested under the POCSO Act. Mr. Kevin Raj, PSBB’s Karate teacher, and two of his friends were taken in by the police following two complaints of sexual harassment registered by students.
Sexual harassment of students is emerging as a national-level concern across schools in India. Already, following the PSBB incident, several reports of sexual assault and various forms of discrimination across schools in Chennai have surfaced.
Students are finally gaining the courage to speak out, mostly under the veil of online anonymity, and in more cases than not, telling their stories while fighting their fears about being identified. One can’t help but wonder: What — or who — stopped them from speaking out before?
Where were the school authorities during these incidents? And when will they stop denying the shadow of danger that follows students in institutions where they spend most of their early lives, acknowledge their faults, and begin to prioritise student safety over reputation?
Help us fight sexual harassment of students
After assessing the numerous testimonies received, we have noticed very little awareness and sensitivity on the above topics among students and, even more so, among teachers. These sensitisation courses must take place to establish a safe educational environment for all students.
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.
We urge schools to take long-term action and ensure that this cycle of violation is not perpetuated in the future.