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Unsafe Schools: Did a Mumbai School Trustee Rape Minors?

Several questions remain months after a Mumbai school trustee and teacher were booked on charges of sexual assault.

Updated
India
4 min read
A school trustee and a teacher were booked for sexually assaulting a 4-year-old girl and boy inside school premises. 
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As the brutal murder of an 8-year-old inside Ryan International School in Gurgaon continues to send shock waves across the country, Mumbai too is no stranger to similar incidents that left parents questioning the safety provided to their children at school.

On 18 May, parents of a 4-year-old girl filed an FIR in Mumbai's MIDC police station in Andheri, alleging that their child was sexually assaulted in school by none other than the 57-year-old founder and trustee of the school. The parents also alleged a teacher’s involvement in the case.

In fact, they claimed that their child was being sexually assaulted for months and only spoke up about the ordeal after her mother spotted bruises on her body.

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According to the FIR, the teacher took the child and her classmate, a 4-year-old boy, to the trustee’s office during breaks where both the children were sexually assaulted. Only after the mother of the minor girl noticed changes in her behaviour and bruises on her child’s body, she asked the four-year-old what happened to her. That’s when the child opened up about the incident.

Patrick Brillant, an Indian Origin French national, who is the trustee of Tridha, a renowned school in Mumbai that even has children of celebrities studying in, has been booked for rape and under various sections of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POSCO) and the teacher too has been made an accomplice in the case. However, no arrests have been made so far.

No witnesses have corroborated the claims made by the girl’s family yet. We are still continuing our investigation. The accused are being questioned and we have also questioned other members of the school staff.
Police Sources

Who is Patrick Brillant?

A French national of Indian origin, Patrick Brillant married an Indian woman and settled down in Mumbai in 1996. Soon, he started setting up workshops teaching the Steiner curriculum, an alternative school curriculum that was designed by Rudolph Steiner. In this form of learning, the focus is more holistic and social and encourages students to participate in group exercises. With his workshops striking a chord with parents, Patrick Brillant started a school that offered the same style of teaching and named it Tridha.

In a previous interview published on The Triangle Tridha, a student magazine, he mentioned that the idea struck him while selecting a school for his daughter.

I had never expected myself to open a German-based Steiner school in Mumbai. It was only after I was married, had my first child and had to send her to school that I realised that there were no schools that encouraged children to think for themselves. So, I did research for material that was appropriate to the education I thought was ideal and I settled for the Steiner method.
Patrick Brillant, trustee, Tridha and rape accused
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As soon as the four-year-old told her mother about the alleged assault, even recognising Brillant from a picture shown to her, her parents approached a local NGO and filed an FIR in the case. The child was taken for multiple sessions to a psychiatrist soon after the complaint was lodged, as protocol demands, but police say the child allegedly showed no signs of trauma during the sessions.

With the incident having occurred months before the minor opened up to her mother, medical reports too allegedly show no evidence of sexual assault. When asked about the second child, a 4-year-old boy who was also mentioned in the FIR, police sources say that they have contacted the child’s parents who have rejected the claims.

According to a Hindustan Times report from June this year, the school trustees mailed out a statement to the parents soon after the incident came to light.

As (the school) grows and expands sharing light on education, the darkness of the material world also clings to us. In the same way that I prepare (the school) students for the unexpected, I am preparing myself to face the unexpected so that truth will ultimately prevail… I am confident that in due course it would be revealed and clarified that the accusation is unfounded.
A statement by the school

While we were unable to connect with the parents of the minor, parents of another child who has been studying at the school for 10 years say they haven’t received any such complaints.

“Since my son’s school follows the Waldorf curriculum, which focus on not just books but a more holistic and practical approach, there are many excursions and outdoor camps organised by the school each year. But even then, my son has not complained about any inappropriate behaviour,” says a parent whose ward studies at Tridha.

Police have confirmed that the teacher who was booked as an accomplice is no longer associated with the school. With the investigation still underway, the police are still questioning the accused, teachers, school staff and parents to verify the multiple allegations emerging in this sensitive case.

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