Vrndavana Investigation update:
CPO Finds BGIS gurukula has safe and effective child protection program
Posted November 26, 2004
November 4, 2004
In light of recent charges that child abuse cases were improperly handled, the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection, under the Direction of Tamohara das, recently conducted a thorough investigation into the policies and practices at the gurukula. The investigation, headed by Hari Sauri Prabhu, concluded that the school administration and child protection team were not negligent in dealing with any issues of child abuse, and, in fact, have enacted thorough and professional training, policies and procedures pertaining to child abuse. Some very constructive and progressive changes have been made, including an enlarged and more comprehensive Child Protection Team that will have jurisdiction for the entire Vrndavana devotee community. The full Child Protection Office Report follows:
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
On the request of the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection (CPO), Hari Sauri Prabhu was engaged in investigating recent allegations of the handling of child abuse incidents at the Vrndavana, India, Gurukula (BGIS). Hari Sauri Prabhu conducted a very thorough investigation involving many days and interviewing several devotees. The Child Protection Office is satisfied with the investigation, and wholeheartedly accepts the conclusions and recommendations of the report.
The specific charges and allegations were:
- The school and the schools child protection team (CPT) were slow to act on information of child abuse,
- The school and the CPT might have engaged in a cover-up of the problems,
- Certain staff members had intimidated those speaking out against their actions,
- The CPT has an inherent conflict of interest, as it is constituted with a majority of school staff members.
The ICOCP accepts the basic conclusions of the report, namely:
- There is no evidence of any attempt to cover up or suppress information of child abuse.
- There is no evidence of intimidation. These allegations were found to be unreliable.
- The Child Protection Team acted appropriately and timely in dealing with the two cases in question.
- Overall, the Vrndavana school administration and the child protection team are to be commended for their dedication to child abuse prevention and training.
- It is possible that the CPT might give the perception of not being entirely impartial, given the heavy representation of the gurukula administration. This has already been addressed and rectified, as described below.
Recommendations and concerns addressed by the report and endorsed by the ICOCP:
- A more broadly based CPT should be formed. In fact, based on the efforts of Hari Sauri Prabhu, Braja Bihari Prabhu, and the temple leadership, a much larger Child Protection team has been formed that includes a cross section of temple and gurukula devotees, gurukula alumni, etc. This new CPT will handle any issues arising in both the temple and the school. It should be noted that the Vrndavana Gurukula administration welcomes and fully supports this newly-constituted Child Protection Team.
- In two cases, staff reporting of child abuse to the administration was somewhat slow. However, the cases were minor, isolated, incidents and were reported after a month or two. This calls for better training of all personnel, so that any incident, no matter how minor it may appear, is immediately reported to the administration or the CPT.
- There was also some reluctance and slowness of students to report the abuse. This is fairly common and not surprising. The school does regularly train students in the No, Go, Tellpolicy of handling abuse, but this simply points out the need to continue and strengthen this training.
Overall, the investigative report and the CPO find that the administration of the BGIS is doing an excellent service, and is clearly dedicated to preventing child abuse and acting on reports of abuse. There is a continual need (as in all temples and schools) to train both school staff and students in the need to immediately report any incident.
One of the most positive results of this investigation was the development of an enlarged, strengthened Child Protection Team that will serve the entire Vrndavana community. This should help reduce in further incidents or accusations.
Finally, the ICOCP would like to again thank Sriman Hari Sauri Prabhu for voluntarily taking much time and great trouble to conduct this investigation, write a thorough report, and present such excellent recommendations. I would like to add my profound appreciation and thanks for this fine service to Srila Prabhupada, ISKCON, Vrndavana gurukula, the CPO, and most importantly, to our children - the future hope.