Why Did Ryan School Let CBI Quiz Kids Without Informing Parents?
On 12 Oct, Ryan Intl students in Gurugram were held after school for CBI inquiry, without consent of parents.
When Ryan International School reopened on 25 September after the gruesome murder of seven-year-old Pradyumn, most parents sent their children to school with mixed feelings. Some were relieved that the classes had resumed. The Parent-Teacher meeting on 23 September assured them that adequate safety measures had been taken.
For some, it took a lot more to send their wards back to school, with the trauma of the murder still fresh on the young minds.
But on 12 October, a little over a month after the murder, a sense of dread hit parents when their children didn’t return home at the usual time. I awaited the return of my nephew from school, and by 3:30 pm, I began to worry. I had no clue what the delay was and for someone who doesn’t get fazed very easily or panic at the drop of a hat, I had my moment of fear.
It was then that my daughter, also a student of Ryan International School, Sohna Road (and who had not gone to school that day), said that there was a message shared by another parent in the class WhatsApp Group. It said:
The worried parent of a 12th grader expressed disgust that the school had only informed parents long after their kids were due home. As I read the messages, my panic turned to fury.
I admit, for the next hour, until I got to the school and met the School Principal and the CBI officials, I was furious. In a way, I still am.
Questioning Students Without Parents’ Consent?
I drove to school hoping my nephew wasn’t traumatised. One can imagine the worst with a message like that. I had spoken to my daughter’s class teacher by then and mentioned to her that it is illegal to detain a child for inquiry proceedings by CBI without explicit permission by the parent and without the presence of the parent. She told me that the inquiry was almost over and it would take them another 20 minutes. By then, it was 3:45 pm.
My interaction with the CBI official and the Principal was not one I came away happy with. The children had been shown a clip of CCTV footage and were asked to identify children shown in the hazy video. The CBI official, I understand, was doing his job. I am told that they had informed the school well in advance of their intention to question the students.
The school Principal told me that they had sent us an SMS – one that my brother did not get – on the registered number.
But Sending an SMS Doesn’t Mean Permission Is Granted
I cannot imagine how short-sighted this approach was. I asked her why the parents were not informed on time and why their permission was not taken to permit the children to stay back. She was indignant about the SMS sent and insisted that she had done her bit.
A message sent to the parents 15 minutes before school lets out does not suffice. Nor does a message being sent mean that permission has been automatically given to question their children.
I have been a firm believer in the idea that the school knows best and the responsibility of education falls on the shoulders of capable teachers.
I also know that the teachers at RIS Sohna Road are very committed to ensuring the child’s studies come first. My question is about the administrative capability of the current set up.
I find it hard to believe that it is okay to subject children to questioning, no matter how mild it is, without their parents being present.
The Principal seemed to think I was making a big deal out of nothing. I don’t begrudge the CBI their investigation. I do believe it needs to be done. But I also believe that due process has to be followed. Did they check if the Principal had obtained permission from parents to go ahead with this? Perhaps they should have.
Trauma Has No Gender
But my concern is more about the persons with whom we placed our trust regarding our children. I also learned that only the male students had been detained, and the girls had been sent home. What is that supposed to mean?
Is a male child presumed to be more resilient and therefore can be subjected to psychological trauma? Trauma has no gender. Did we all forget that Pradyumn was a male child? It doesn’t make sense to me, this insensitivity with which the children are being treated.
I must commend my nephew’s class teacher who ensured the children managed to be provided with a bar of chocolate to tide over any hunger. A number of children do not eat breakfast and a number of them do not carry tiffin to school. The canteen was closed. Picture the added stress.
Here are 150-180 male children of the school being subject to sudden detainment (the children were informed ten minutes before school broke for the day). They were simply separated gender wise, the girls sent home, and the boys had no idea why they were being detained.
What Value Can a Child’s Confused Identification Have?
Let’s talk about the part about the children trying to identify another schoolmate from a hazy video. What happens if a child has been wrongly identified? There were children who thought it was someone they recognised, and named them. The veracity of that identification has still not been confirmed.
By the time these children returned to the classroom in which they were made to wait, there was gossip floating about the child who had been named. What next? What happens if the child is innocent and is picked up for further questioning under duress?
These children have already missed school, their syllabus is barely completed, they have unit tests coming up and now, they are distracted, fearful and unable to focus on studies yet again. One cannot stop young minds from thinking, or talking and influencing each other. Youth is all about peer impact. What are we doing to these children?
I have endless reservations about the way the school is handling issues that are extremely sensitive in nature. I send my child to school with endless hope. I am a parent trying to strike a balance, attempting to explain things to an impressionable mind, the psychology of things, and the positivity of staying upbeat despite it all. I need to stay rational despite this chaos.
I also need to stay balanced. I am trying. Will the school administration at least try to be more sensitive, follow due process and not create insecurity in the school? It affects children more than you or I can fathom.
For the sake of our children, I pray the administration wakes up to doing the right thing.
(Sandhya Suri is a retired naval officer and the parent of a student who goes to Ryan International School, in Gurugram. This is a personal blog and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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