You feel assured that school is a safe place and you shouldn’t feel worried when your child is there. Think again. Your self-assurance may be misplaced? Read on to know why.
By Parvathy Gopakumar
School is a place where parents send their children to receive good education. But, while a child is doing that, he may also be at the receiving end of school violence.
A child can be called a victim of school violence when she is assaulted or intimidated by her schoolmates, teachers or other staff on the school premises, on the way to or back from school, or during any event sponsored or managed by the school.
Not very long ago, the nation was shocked by the news of a child being killed in the school toilet by one of his senior schoolmates. While the police arrested the school bus conductor on suspicion, it was only after a thorough investigation that the real culprit was arrested.
Similar instances of school violence, some very gruesome, are being reported with growing regularity. All these incidents have brought to light the fact that children’s safety in schools is a matter of concern and parents shouldn’t be taking things lightly.
Violence in school isn’t always physical, it can be passive as well. Some examples of passive forms of violence that children face in school include being bullied or cyberbullied, verbally threatened and intimidated, and subjected to social ostracism. Common examples of physical violence include being hit with the hands or objects like pens and pencils (of late, even guns and sharp-edged weapons have been used by children on the school premises).
The causes of school violence are diverse. In some children, feelings of worry, hatred, anger, inferiority complex and other negative emotions fuel violent behaviour. In some, watching parents or guardians displaying violent behaviour to assert their authority sows seeds of violence. In a few, personality disorders or problems with addiction pushes them towards committing violence against their peers. The media, which brings incidents of school violence to the fore, also shares a part of the blame. Some sections of the media present violent acts in a glorified manner, which makes children think that indulging in violence is okay.
Section 23 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, provides punishment for cruelty to a juvenile or a child. It says — Whoever, having the actual charge of, or control over, a juvenile or the child, assaults, abandons, exposes or wilfully neglects the juvenile or causes or procures him to be assaulted, abandoned, exposed or neglected in a manner likely to cause such juvenile or the child unnecessarily mental or physical suffering shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or fine, or with both.
Section 23 makes no distinction between the perpetrators. However, an interesting point is that, anyone below the age of 18 years is considered a child under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000.
When it comes to sexual offences, when the victim is below the age of 18 years, the accused can be prosecuted under provisions of both the Indian Penal Code and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
As of now, action initiated against the aggressor differs based on whether the individual is a minor or a major. Factors like, the degree of violence inflicted, the individual on whom it was inflicted, the place where the act was committed play an important role when it comes to taking action against the perpetrator.
Given the number of cases of school violence reported each year, it is high time that we, as a society, take the steps necessary to keep our children safe. Parents should not hesitate to seek expert advice whenever necessary. When it comes to protecting our children from violence of any kind, we should all remember what Nelson Mandela said — “We owe our children – the most vulnerable citizens in any society – a life free from violence and fear.”
The author, a part of Safecity’s Writer’s Movement, is a student at National Law School of India University, Bengaluru.
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