Sexual Harassment At Lahore Grammar School And The Lessons To Learn
During the past few days, accounts of sexual harassment at a Lahore school have surfaced over various social media platforms. Many students have jointly come forward and spoken about sexual harassment incidents that took place in one of the branches of Lahore’s prestigious private school, Lahore Grammar School. The primary sex offenders in this case were the faculty members and administration members.
The offenders were accused of touching their victims inappropriately. One of the faculty members who took the students on debate trips had even manipulated these underage pupils into drinking alcohol. He was also reported to have sent his nudes to them. The students complained on many occasions to the administration but they didn’t seem to take their pleas and anguish seriously.
On the flip side, the harassment seemed ‘justified’ as the victims were told to ignore the accused and look at their background (case in point the accountant), girls should dress properly. Here, I completely disagree with both the points raised by the administration. However, I would delve further into the matter to see what it actually means?
After the repeated attempts of the students, no action was taken by the admin and when the issue was escalated to the school director, it still remained unresolved. The elite schools are only worried about their name, their reputation, but what good did it all serve to the school in the end? Now, when the school’s reputation and the future cash-flow were put at stake, the offenders were fired immediately.
Whoever harasses a student, he or she should be dealt with regardless of their background and class. So I ask the administration, should the students only deal with a predator if he or she comes from a nicer, upper middle-class background?
As far as dressing up properly is concerned, the students have a designated uniform to wear at the campus. How could inappropriate dressing come into the picture? But, if it does, let’s agree with it to some extent. We live in a country where the people belonging to various social strata. For instance, the sweeper in the school corridors may not be that educated to comprehend the issue at hand. Ideally, attire choice must not be questioned because it negatively impacts the movement against the harassment culture.
It is the job of the school’s staff, be it any gender, to ensure that the operations run in a fluid manner and its faculty, staff, and students are safe to perform their duties and receive education effectively and efficiently.
Another way of looking at this scenario is that what if it’s an evil attempt to tarnish the reputation of one of the leading schools in Lahore. To that effect, I would counter it by saying, that the very fact that these offenders were not fired initially is the direct validation of the school’s callous attitude toward the students’ complaints. As we empower our children to live lives of strength, integrity, independence, why can’t we empower them to come and speak out? When this voice is squashed, then a victim may not recover from abuse. That’s why these students must be applauded and encouraged.
Let’s not forget that we are talking about underage students were confused, uncomfortable and harassed. They must be confused in terms of what to do to avoid a possible backlash or retaliation? Yet from what we have read in the past three days, they went through every possible channel to end their misery, yet the offenders stayed at the campus.
But the most burning question remains: Are students safe within school premises? The answer is no. LGS and other schools must come up with a process to first define sexual harassment. Secondly, lay out a communication plan which ensures the students’ enrollment safety so that he or she can share their experience. Their privacy must be intact so that the predator may never be able to attack a student in otherwise different surroundings. Thirdly, the schools must educate their, admin, faculty, staff, students, parents on their “zero tolerance policy”.
Last but not least, all staff at an educational campus must be taught what entails harassment. Also, there should be a declaration by a teacher regarding their track record.
Parents send their children to schools with utmost trust and faith and that trust must never be broken by any institution.
The writer is a philanthropist, content creator and presenter of a YouTube Channel, The Catalyst that deals in burning, taboo issues.