CHILDLINE Eluru rescued 15 girls who were being sexually harassed by their school Principal in Tadepalligudem, Andhra Pradesh. The CHILDLINE Eluru team received a phone call from one of the girls about the indecent behaviour by the founder cum Principal of Sunshine High School. The 7th standard student was completely vexed with his behaviour and mustered up the courage to finally call 1098 and complain about his conduct.
On receiving the call, the CHILDLINE team immediately informed the Nodal coordinator and Collab director, Rev. Fr. Dr. Addanki Raju with whose suggestion the team contacted the CIC to plan the rescue operation.The CIC asked the team to collect all the facts in the area regarding the allegations and question the community members about the school and the principal before heading to the school for a rescue. CHILDLINE members spent 4 rigorous days in collecting the required information from surrounding areas. They talked to the parents of the students as well so as to understand the scenario better. The team members posed themselves as parents wanting to admit their children in Sunshine High School and through this process they found out the reality about the school and its Principal. Some people who lived around the school confirmed the incidents of sexual abuse by the Principal. It was also found that even though some parents questioned the Principal about his behaviour, he managed to escape and settle the matter by compromising with the parents of the victim children.
After gathering all the necessary information, the CIC arranged for a 6 member team to carry out the rescue operation at the school. This 6 member team comprised of the Nodal and Collab coordinator, a counselor and 3 CHILDLINE members. Before entering the school, the Collab co-ordinator phoned the Mandal Education Officer to participate in the operation and requested for their support if needed.
Early next morning the team approached the school Principal saying that the district collector had ordered CHILDLINE to conduct an awareness program in all the surrounding schools. On hearing this, the Principal gave his permission for the awareness program in his school. The 6 member team divided the boys and girls into separate groups for the awareness program. All the girls were taken to a separate classroom and were explained about the 1098 service for about 30 minutes. The co-ordinator then asked the girls if they knew about the number 1098. Most of the girls answered in the affirmative and informed that they knew about 1098 through an awareness program that was conducted earlier in Tadepalligudem and had also seen the number in their school text books. The co-ordinator then enquired with the girls if they wanted to share any problems they were facing. The team observed that the girls were murmuring among themselves and it looked as though they wanted to share what was on their mind but were hesitant to do so. Later, one girl stood up and said, "Sir, I called 1098 recently". Seeing that she was scared, the CHILDLINE team assured all the girls that they would support them and help them in solving the matter. The girls were a bit relived on hearing this and slowly, one after the other; they started complaining about their Principal and his behaviour towards them. The CHILDLINE team at this time was recording the statements of each child and it was found that 15 out of a total of 25 girls were molested by the school Principal.
After recording the statements the Nodal Coordinator immediately rung up the Mandal Education Officer and informed him about the sexual harassment in the school. Soon after, the MEO reached the school he had a word with the girls and confirmed that the allegations were true. The Centre co-ordinator gave a written complaint to the MEO and called the Deputy Superintendent of Police to book the case. The Deputy Superintendent of Police in turn directed the Tadepalligudem SI to take the necessary action. The SI inquired with the girls and immediately arrested the Principal. The case has been booked under U/S 354 IPC and Sec 10 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012.