Centre issues guidelines fixing accountability of schools for students' safety

  • The 'Guidelines on School Safety and Security' have been prepared by an expert committee and will be implemented in addition to all the already existing school safety guidelines.
Centre issues guidelines fixing accountability of schools for students' safety(Representative photo)
Centre issues guidelines fixing accountability of schools for students' safety(Representative photo)
Published on Oct 06, 2021 01:33 PM IST
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By, New Delhi

Provide a secured infrastructure; timely medical aid; prompt action on complaints reported by students; prevention of bullying, corporal punishment discrimination and use substance abuse; and strict implementation of covid-19 guidelines. The Center has issued new guidelines fixing accountability of schools in case of safety of children, and the non-compliance may attract fines, and even take away the recognition of the schools.

The 'Guidelines on School Safety and Security' have been prepared by an expert committee following a Supreme Court’s order. The order had come in response to a writ petition filed by the father of a student who was found murdered in an International school in Gurgaon in 2017, seeking a direction to frame guidelines for fixing accountability of the school managements in the matter of safety of the children studying in schools.

The guidelines shared by the ministry of education’s department of school education and literacy with the states and Union Territories (UTs) on October 1 stated that the school management or the principal or Head of school that has the responsibility of ensuring safety of children in schools and parents play an important role in monitoring whether the school is fulfilling its responsibility. “When a child is in school, the school has the actual charge or control over a child, and if the school willfully neglects the child, in a manner likely to cause the child unnecessary mental or physical suffering, it may be treated as violation of Juvenile Justice Act, 2015,” it stated.

Defining ‘Safety’ as a protection against undesirable unintentional threats or dangers, and ‘Security’ as protection from undesirable intentional human behaviours or actions, the guidelines stated, “A safe school environment is, therefore, one that protects against all dangers and creates an environment of harmony promoting the physical, socio-emotional and psychological well-being of all.”

These guidelines will be implemented in addition to all the already existing school safety guidelines.

The guidelines identified 11 categories of negligence for which school administrations will be held accountable. It included negligence in establishing a secured infrastructure, negligence related to security measures, negligence in standard of food and water provided at the campus, delay in providing medical aid to students , negligence in taking action against a complaint reported by a student, negligence on corporal punishment including mental, emotional harassment, negligence in preventing bullying, discriminatory actions, substance abuse in the school premises, inaction in time of disaster or crime; and negligence in the strict implementation of Covid-19 guidelines that may result in threat for safety and security of students, among others.

The guidelines also laid down different sections of Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 and the Prevention of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences, or POCSO, (Amendment) Bill, 2019, under which school administrations can be held accountable for the above mentioned negligence.

They suggest that in case of non-compliance the parents-teachers association of private and unaided schools may approach the Block Education Officer (BEO). In case of non-redressal of the grievances at BEO level the matter should be taken up with the District Education Officer (DEO) who may take it up with the District Collector (DC)/District Magistrate (DM). The DM/DC will conduct an inquiry.

If it is found that the school has not adhered to the safety guidelines, a fine equivalent to 1% of the total revenue generated in the preceding year will be imposed. The fine may increase to 3% and 5% in case of second and third complaints of non-compliance and even schools can be debarred from taking admissions, the guidelines stated. In case the complaint continues, the DC/DM may escalate the issue to the state/UT School Education Department. They may lead to the derecognition of the schools, the guidelines stated.

The Centre has asked all the states and UTs to include the conditions fixing responsibility of safety and security of the children in schools on the school management/principal/head of School, while giving recognition to the schools.

The guidelines suggested that the school managements should conduct a thorough inspection of the school at least once in a quarter, during school hours; should organise 'Safety Walk' of the entire school premises, in order to ensure compliance of standard safety measures; integrate learning about Safety as an activity for students; organise training of teachers on their roles and responsibilities; prepare and display School Safety and Security Plan; constitute a Grievance Committee on Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) within a month of beginning of every academic year; and set-up an anti-bullying committee.

The states and UTs have also been asked to ensure that all schools follow the guidelines.

According to the document shared with all the states and the UTs, the guidelines are based on three key principles -- ‘accountability framework’ with the help of existing legal provisions; ‘whole school approach’ by integrating safety and security aspects in education itself, by including deliberations upon the health, physical, socio-emotional, psycho-social and cognitive aspects of school safety and security; and at the same time ‘addressing multi-sectoral concerns’ to further create a safe society.

The overall implementation plan for making schools safe and secure will be known as ‘DRISHTI’ that will work on seven basic steps -- Dissemination, Roll-out, Interventions, Support, Handholding, Tracking, and Incentivizing.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Fareeha Iftikhar is a principal correspondent with the national political bureau of the Hindustan Times. She tracks the education ministry, and covers the beat at the national level for the newspaper. She also writes on issues related to gender, human rights and different policy matters.

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Thursday, July 07, 2022