Bengaluru: Irrespective of whether or not Vibgyor school has a ‘dark room’ used exclusively for isolating students, the fact remains that the victim has clearly stated that she was locked in a room as punishment for bad behaviour. Apart from making her vulnerable to an attack by the perpetrators, punishment of any sort is strictly against the rules of the Right to Education Act and the Juvenile Justice Act. The school, on its part, has categorically denied having isolated the child, although it claims that she had Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), with a tendency toward violent behaviour. The teacher who reportedly punished the child has not been identified.
“Parents from Vibgyor school, although they are afraid, did approach us saying that punishment is common there,” said RTE activist Nagasimha Rao. “Teachers scold and smack the students, with isolation used as the ultimate punishment.” However, as parents know that their children have no alternate options if the school is shut down, they are unwilling to come forward with their complaints. “We asked them to give us written complaints that we could forward to the Education Department, but they don’t want to do even that. They are worried about what will happen to their children if the school’s recognition is revoked.”
“The RTE provisions clearly say that a child cannot be punished, no matter what the circumstances,” said Vasudeva Sharma, head of the Child Rights Trust, a quasi-government organisation. “You cannot put the child out of bounds of the classroom, for isolation means allowing her to fall prey to the crime.” He explained that Vibgyor school, like several others in the city, claims that it is a minority institution and thereby exempt from the Act.
“According to the Supreme Court ruling, they are only exempt from one section of the act - 25% reservation for financially backward students. Other provisions, like the qualification of teaching staff, bans on punishment of any kind and infrastructure apply to every school in the country, minority or otherwise. The schools that claim exemption don’t allow even the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights to step onto the campus and remain safely out of bounds of government scrutiny,” Rao said.
Professor Babu Mathew, former registrar of National Law School India, who now takes a course named Master of Public Policy at the institute, said that isolation is referred to as illegal confinement under the Juvenile Justice Act and should be treated as a criminal offence.