Why school safety is important
Over the past few years, the alarming spate of criminal acts in schools has grabbed the headlines. A student of class 2 was found murdered in a prominent school in Gurugram. Four cases of murders were recorded in 2017 on school premises in Delhi, while other states have had their share of gruesome acts committed on students. In Bangalore, three minors were recently caught in connection with the murder of a sixteen-year-old just outside the school campus. Molestation and rape cases have also seen a steep rise within the school premises, and have been frequently reported. While some incidents come to light, many go unreported as well. This raises serious questions over safety of students on the campus in schools.
CBSE checklist on school safety
Ensuring safety of all stakeholders in the school premises is of paramount importance and is now a mandate as per both CBSE and state government regulations. CBSE issued a 117-point checklist to prevent such crimes and ensure safety and security of all stakeholders.
One of the guidelines relates to the formation of a specific committee with respect to safety in school premises. Schools also need to have separate committees for grievance redressal and to address sexual harassment complaints under the 2012 Act of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences.
The other guideline relates to school staff verification and background verification in schools. The guidelines make it mandatory to employ only those candidates who are referred by authorized agencies post school staff verification. CBSE also emphasises comprehensive school staff verification and background verification in schools to be conducted for employing support staff including conductors, bus drivers, gym or PT instructors, peons or library personnel. Such school staff verification must be undertaken in a very thorough manner with utmost attention to every minor detail.
Taking a very serious note of the safety aspects compliance, the CBSE notification states that the violation or non-compliance of safety in schools can lead to disqualification.
Critical areas that need attention
Some of the critical areas that schools need to focus on include:
Installation of CCTV: CCTV arrangements are to be made in school premises at all vulnerable areas as well as school buses as per CBSE directive. It is not only important to install them but also to ensure they are in working condition at all times. In the incident where three students in Khajuri Khas were arrested in connection with the murder of a sixteen-year-old in the school toilet, the CCTV footage showing them thrashing the boy helped the police nail the suspects.
School staff verification conducted by experts: It is imperative that school authorities immediately conduct school staff verification of existing staff to ensure there are no security lapses. School staff verification can be done with the help of professional background verification agencies that have the technical and process expertise to conduct thorough background screening. Some of the checks conducted by such agencies include police records verification, criminal records check from the database of High courts, Supreme Court, District and other regional courts, establish identity and credit default checks.
Conducting psychometric evaluations: Schools should complete police verification as well as a psychometric evaluation as part of school staff verification process in line with the CBSE directive. Psychometric evaluation is a scientific assessment of behaviour and mental capabilities and can indicate deviations from normal behaviour.
Training and auditing: Schools should also ensure that the staff and stakeholders are trained to recognise possible safety lapses and in understanding their own responsibilities to ensure the safety and well-being of children.