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School helpline –14417 — sees three times rise in calls

Express News Service

CHENNAI/COIMBATORE: Ever since a 17-year-old died by suicide in Coimbatore a couple of weeks ago, allegedly after being sexually assaulted by her teacher, the School Education Department’s helpline — 14417 — has been receiving between 350 and 600 calls daily. This is about three times the usual 150-200 calls per day. 

While some of the calls are to register complaints regarding harassment, spike in school fees, and for career counselling, a good number of others are to enquire about the legal proceedings in case of harassment.

Nine counsellors work in shifts to respond to students round the clock. “The calls are initially received by response officers, who transfer them for counselling based on the requirement. We also have a protocol for specific cases, such as sexual harassment and child abuse,” GVK Emergency Management and Research Institute (EMRI) operations head Paul Robinson F said, adding that calls to report sexual abuse or harassment are immediately transferred to counselling officers.

When contacted, one of the counsellors said, “Besides sexual harassment, there is an increasing number of complaints about teachers beating students. These are immediately forwarded to the district CEOs, who issue warnings to the respective schools.”

Apart from this, a growing number of students and parents has been calling to find out how to proceed in cases of sexual harassment. Some even call to enquire about the progress on cases. The counsellors say that while conversing with victims, they speak with empathy and console the caller so they open up more.

Some cases are forwarded to the childline for help. One of the main agendas of this protocol is for Education Department officials to reach the ground level and ascertain the veracity of the issue.

Kovai principal gets bail
The Special Court for POCSO Act cases on Wednesday  granted bail to the principal of a private school in Coimbatore in a case related to the suicide of a former student allegedly after she was sexually assaulted by a teacher. The principal, Meera Jackson, alias Mini Jackson, will have to appear before the police every Sunday

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