Staff working in 150-odd Catholic schools in the Indian Archdiocese of Bombay have been asked to submit character references that will prove that they are suitable to work with children. The Archdiocesan Board of Education (ABE) which manages these schools have asked the teaching and non-teaching staff to sign declaration forms with the names and addresses of two people who can vouch for them, as part of the new child protection policy of the ABE.
According to Father George Athaide, secretary of the ABE, they have framed this policy "in the light of the recent cases of child sexual abuse and harassment in schools." It has been promulgated by Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay. Teachers have also been asked to sign a child protection code of conduct stipulating that they should not use inappropriate language or behavior, which is harassing, abusive, sexually provocative, demeaning or culturally inappropriate or use mobile phones, video cameras or social media to exploit or harass children or access child exploitation material through any medium.
Father Athaide said the teachers also have been asked to disclose all charges and convictions that occurred before or during their association with schools. The staff members are also asked not to invite children to their home if they are unaccompanied, unless it is an emergency. Some teachers who have been working for several years said their schools should know them better and apply the policy only to new recruits. Child monitoring committees will also be set up in schools to take measures to protect children and prevent child abuse. A mental health professional and a non-government organization or a person working in child rights will be its members along with management, staff and a Parents-Teachers Association (PTA) representative. At least one member will be a woman. The committee will inquire into alleged cases of child abuse, examine the child and the witnesses and recommend action against the abuser. It will also have to inform the parents of the child within 24 hours of receiving the complaint and provide counseling to the child. The code of conduct for child protection also asks not to use physical punishment on children and immediately report concerns or allegations of child exploitation and abuse to authorities. (Source: Hindustan Times)
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