Several students and alumni of the Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan (PSBB) school in Chennai accused a male teacher of sexual harassment on Monday. The commerce teacher, who teaches at the school’s KK Nagar branch, was arrested on Tuesday by Chennai City Police.
On Sunday, school alumna Kripali on her Instagram stories highlighted the woes of scores of anonymous students and accused the teacher of sexual misconduct during class hours. The teacher was accused of talking to his students in sexual innuendoes, coming to class topless with just a towel wrapped around his waist, sharing pornographic links to his students, asking students to send him their pictures, requesting them late night video calls, “slutshaming” girl students, among other inappropriate behaviour.
In one of the screenshots posted anonymously, a student claimed, “And what is even more disgusting is the sheer number of complaint letters we’ve been sending to the authorities, batch after batch and zero action was taken against him. And some of us were even subtly threatened into silence because he would “ruin our future” if he willed it.”
On Monday, the school issued a statement assuring that it had “zero tolerance towards any behaviour that adversely affects the physical, emotional, and psychological well being of our students”. Stating that the allegations were not brought to their attention, the school said that they would take “suo moto notice” and take address them. The school subsequently suspended the teacher.
According to The Times of India, the teacher was arrested on Tuesday and produced before a court judge. He was remanded in judicial custody till June 8. He was arrested under the POCSO Act Sections 11, 12, under IPC Act 354 (a) and 509, IT Act section 67 and 67 (a). The report also stated that the teacher was earlier nabbed at his Nanganallur residence and detained at the Vadapalani police station for questioning.
As the allegations against the teacher gained momentum on social media, many members of the Tamil film industry expressed solidarity with the students. Singer and voice artist Chinmayi Sripada, actor Lakshmi Priyaa Chandramouli, and producer Archana Kalpathi sought strict action against the teacher. Many politicians, including DMK MP Kanimozhi, writer and politician Jothimani of Congress, called for a probe into the case and swift action to be taken.
Wish parents of students at PSBB to file a case. Not sure how many could do it since they shut their own kids down fearing ‘dignity’ and ‘family honour’. This offenders use to their advantage.
People like Rajagopalan, Ramesh Prabha should’ve been in jail for Child Sexual Abuse
— Chinmayi Sripaada (@Chinmayi) May 24, 2021
TW: stories of sexual harassment. Rajagopalan, commerce teacher in #PSBB(KKN) is a sexual harasser. Posting this after I have personally verified this with a student from this man’s class. Also posting this to amplify and ensure he gets the punishment he deserves. This is sick. https://t.co/ndJIKrOmN5
— Lakshmi Priyaa Chandramouli (@LakshmiPriyaaC) May 23, 2021
Sexual harassment cannot be normalised It was heartbreaking to see stories about this commerce teacher in #PSBB As alumni we have to amplify so it reaches the right people to take severe action This is not Ok !Love and hugs to all the brave girls who have shared their stories ♥️
— Archana Kalpathi (@archanakalpathi) May 24, 2021
In a statement addressed to the school’s dean Sheela Rajendra, a group of PSBB alumni submitted a list of demands, including the “immediate suspension” of the commerce teacher, who is a faculty member for over 20 years. Other demands included restraining the teacher from taking any classes and not included in academic activities of the school pending investigation, not let him mark/grade the students, ensure “child protection committee” and “gender sensitivity committee” was “suitable appraised”.
Media baron Dayanidhi Maran also called for action.
Have written to Hon’ble Union Minister for Education Thiru @DrRPNishank requesting him to direct @cbseindia29 to initiate appropriate enquiries into the #psbbschool sexual harrasment issue & to probe lapses in mechanism to address such issues at the school @PMOIndia @Anbil_Mahesh pic.twitter.com/TwlmK717Vg
— Dayanidhi Maran தயாநிதி மாறன் (@Dayanidhi_Maran) May 24, 2021
PSBB, considered to be an elite school in Chennai, was founded by educationalist Rajalakshmi Parthasarathy, mother of actor YG Mahendran (who is also a trustee member of PSBB).
While the allegations gained momentum on Monday, an old video of Mahendran interviewing veteran actor Sowcar Janaki resurfaced. In what may seem to be a problematic stand on the MeToo Movement, the video featured Janaki saying: “It is something that is bothering me. It is degrading and a cheap advertisement, to talk about something that happened in the past, or that would have happened. Is that needed? Whom does it hurt? Your family, husband, and children. It is very bad and since the MeToo business, I have stopped watching TV and reading the news. What is big to prove in this? What respect do you gain as an individual for speaking something in public that happened years ago? I stand for women and I am a feminist but this I won’t accept. It is crap.”