‘School safety measures must be displayed and communicated to parents’

The murder of a 7-year-old at Ryan International School, Gurgaon, is a wake-up call for parents to assess the security threat to children in schools and their legal right to be protected by the school

By Arun Sharma

‘School safety measures must be displayed and communicated to parents’

The gruesome killing of a young student in Ryan International School has cast the spotlight again on the shortcomings of child safety in India.

Taking note of the incident, while the Supreme Court has issued notice to the Haryana and Central Governments, and the CBSE to come up with guidelines for student safety, the father of the deceased child has filed a petition seeking a CBI probe into the incident.

Here’s the text of the petition filed by the father of the 7-year-old who was killed:

“This Hon’ble Court has been approached by the petitioner herein keeping in view the flagrant violations culminating into the vulnerability of the security and safety of the children studying in the schools all across the country which is not confined to one particular State and therefore the extra ordinary original jurisdiction of this Hon’ble Court under Article 32 of Constitution of India has been invoked.
Many children have lost their lives in the premises of different schools however, management of the schools have not taken any responsibility and have continued to operate in the same manner without any improvement and with full implement.”

Even as this petition is pending in the Supreme Court, we talk to Sanjay Pinto, Lawyer, Columnist, Author and Former Resident Editor – NDTV, to understand the rights enjoyed by parents of school-going children. Here are the excerpts from the interview.

PC: Are there laws to ensure the safety of students?

SP: Laws are aplenty. There is the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act, the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act as well as provisions in the Indian Penal Code to deal with criminal negligence of school authorities. Educational institutions have a duty to verify the antecedents of their employees or outsourced personnel. Safeguarding children on their premises is paramount. Authorities cannot wash their hands off à la Pontius Pilate!

PC: Can parents demand the details of safety and security measures implemented by schools?

SP: Most definitely. Students and parents are also consumers under the Consumer Protection Act. These measures must be displayed or communicated to them. Any lapse will make the authorities liable for compensation for deficiency in service and gross negligence, apart from criminal liability.

PC: The RTE Act makes education compulsory, but does it say anything about the security of students?

SP: Section 17 of the RTE Act prohibits physical punishment or mental harassment. Section 31 of the same statute deals with National and State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights with a duty cast on authorities to ensure safeguards.

PC: Is there a need to amend the RTE Act to incorporate stricter laws regarding security of children?

SP: Such provisions already exist in addition to a slew of other laws as mentioned earlier.

PC: If changes can be made in the laws, what should be the nature of changes?

SP: Vicarious liability is alien to criminal law. And, is a possible escape route for school officials when there are crimes perpetrated by employees or outsourced agency personnel. Specific requirements like annual filing of safety measures - from periodic verification of antecedents of staff to plugging loopholes on unauthorised entry of outsiders must be made mandatory.

Even as the government is deliberating on the guidelines to set, we, at ParentCircle, have come up with Nine Golden Rules to ensure your child’s safety in school:

  • Rule #1 – Learn more about support staff
  • Rule #2 – Enquire about safety and security
  • Rule #3 – Know about transport safety measures
  • Rule #4 – Stay away from strangers
  • Rule #5 – Ask open-ended questions
  • Rule #6 – Ask for emergency procedure checklist
  • Rule #7 – Don’t stick labels on the schoolbag
  • Rule #8 – Participate regularly in PT meets
  • Rule #9 – Monitor your child’s behaviour

To read about these rules in detail, check out our ClipBook ‘9 Rules To Ensure Your Child Stays Safe At School’.

Safety and security of children is the collective responsibility of the society. Along with the courts and governments, parents and schools should also come together and think of ways of keeping children safe.