Vinita (name changed) was new to the school. She had been admitted late because she could not adjust to the boarding school her parents had sent her to. Unable to cope with homesickness, her grades dropped as did her weight. The parents panicked-she was an only child and this was an all important year for her. They pulled her out of school and admitted her in a premier school of the city. She did not want to go back to her old day school and be called a looser. Vinita had always been an emotional, highly strung child.
At the new day school she was happy. She was admitted in the new ‘Smart School’ wing with air conditioners and wi-fi. She was allowed to take her iPad to school and surf educational sites. Vinita made friends with Shruti, a plump and fun loving girl. Shruti often praised Vinita for her complexion and petite beauty. She was a friendly girl and through her Vinita became part of a group of boys and girls. School became a lively ,fun place and Vinita settled into the school routine.
All the students in the ‘Smart Class’ were allowed to bring their iPads or Tablets. Often homework and assignments had to be downloaded on the tablets. During the break,the students used to click pictures on the tablets and fool around. Though most of the tabs had disabled cameras,some kids could break the lock.
During one of these breaks, the group decided to click cool pics in the auditorium. So they stuck different poses,paired up and clicked pictures. When Vinita came home, she found a number of these snaps on her mobile sent by one Aditya. Only in all these snaps Vinita was posing with a different guy. A number of these pictures also had Shruti but had been edited.
Vinita was shocked. Then the threats came asking for pics in her underwear or all the pics would be sent to her parents and on Face Book. Vinita had none to turn to even Shruti stopped talking to her and called her names. She was terrified that her parents would be devastated. Shruti started persuading her to do what the boys were asking because they could go to any length. Vinita posed, clicked and sent the snaps hoping that the whole episode would end. But the demands grew and she was pushed to the extreme. Her mother noticed that she was quiet and withdrawn and questioned her. She was stunned to find out the truth and went to the Principal with the complaints against the boys.
In most Indian schools there is hardly any support system to handle such cases and they are highly gender insensitive.The aim of most schools is to hush up the matter and remove the girl from the school. That is exactly what this principal did too. She made up her mind that the girl was ‘over friendly’ with boys and of questionable character. So, to avoid trouble she should be quietly removed from school. The principal convinced the parents that it was in the best interest of their child to change schools.She assured the parents that stern action would be taken against Shruti and the boys. Once again Vinita was the victim,her confidence was shattered and she felt terribly depressed and guilty. No counselling was done to help her cope with her all consuming guilt. Shruti and the boys were called,made to delete images and given stern warning. Only Aditya was suspended for a few days and came back, none the worse for it.
I do not know where ‘Vinita’ got admission or how she is dealing with the situation. As a teacher it troubles me to be a part of such a mindset. Most parents are accomplices in getting the matter hushed up but the child bears the wounds forever. For every teen, every parent and every teacher it is essential to understand that the victim should not be victimised. One daring, shameful act should not define a person.
Fight Cyber Bullying!!
Dr. Tarana Khan