Lacking CPO Monitor, Vrndavan Gurukula May be Covering Up New Allegations
Posted November 28, 2011
part 2 of 2 continued from part 1...
On the 7th of November I reported to the Child Protection Office the incident mentioned in this letter (below). I am now very concerned by the lack of professionalism, transparency and care for the welfare of the children shown by the CPO in handling this case.
I am alarmed to see how the mentality that regards the interests of the establishment above all else, even the adequate protection of our children, is still very much alive, both amongst the management of the Vrindavana Gurukula and with the CPO authorities.
Bringing this matter to the attention of the devotee public is the only valid alternative I see for the protection of the children in the Vrindavana Gurukula. I apologize for the inconvenience and distress this will cause to some.
Letter to Champakalata dasi, Child Protection Office (CPO)
Mon, Nov 7, 2011
Dear Champakalata Mataji,
Please accept my respectful obeisance. All Glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I arrived in Vrindavana a few days ago. A friend informed me that a teacher in the Gurukula wanted to report some incidents of corporal punishment in the school to the CPO, but did not know the appropriate procedure or whom to contact. On his request I met with Vrajabhumi mataji, who gave me her report. (See separate article: “Gurukula Tolerates Child Mistreatment but Fires Whistleblower”)
The first thing that transpires in reading her report is the lack of awareness, training and concern of the school teachers and managers. Just the fact that one of the Gurukula teachers in Vrindavana had not been briefed on how to report incidents to the CPO is, in and of itself, an alarming indication.
The second is the absence of local CPO representatives in Vrindavana, where we have one of the main Gurukulas in ISKCON. It is imperative to ensure that the Mayapur and Vrindavana Gurukulas are transparent and that there is adequate CPO presence. The schools need supervision; the staffs need to be effectively trained and briefed on ISKCON's child protection policies and requirements. If this is not done, the CPO will be at least in part responsible for any abuse that may take place.
I also want to point out that in India as of 2007 corporal punishment in schools has been outlawed. I am by no means an expert in Indian legal matters, but my guess is that potentially, the families of the children that have been mistreated may be in a position to sue ISKCON.
I believe it is vital that the CPO initiates an urgent inquiry in this recent matter. From reading the report, I am concerned that the school staff may attempt to instruct the children on an official, "doctored" version of the incidents to be given in the event of an inquiry. To try and avoid this possibility, it may be a good idea to act swiftly and not to give the school management too much notice.
I suggest speaking with Nirguna mataji; she was the CPO representative in Vrindavana up until two years ago, when the new management took over. She still lives in Vrindavana, but is no longer active in the Child Protection Team..Although he is extremely busy, another good person to speak to would be the temple president, Panca Gauda prabhu.
I expect to be in Vrindavana till the 15th of November. I will be happy to assist in any way I can.
Sanaka Rsi das
I regard the following points raised in Vrajabhumi dasi's report to be of serious concern, and they require additional attention.
- That on two occasions the Vice-principal requested Vrajabhumi not to report the incident to the CPO.
- That the school management decided to discharge Vrajabhumi on the grounds that she reported a child abuse incident to the CPO.
- That the principal of the Vrindavana Gurukula is absent and that the school is run by a relatively new devotee.
- That it is the school's intention to reinstate Tejasvini dasi.
- That the school's current management does not give the matter of corporal punishment the necessary importance.
- That the school seems to be run on a policy of: "It's either my way or the highway."
- That for the benefit of the children hurt by Tejasvini, she should be encouraged to apologize, even if she is not so inclined.
- That Tejasvini not be allowed to work in any service related to children.
- That a meeting be held with all the school staff for the purpose of raising awareness on the importance of their service and child protection. They need to be brought up-to-date with ISKCON’s requirements. All the teachers and other staff need to be instructed on how to contact the CPO to report an incident. They also need to be educated on the notions that food deprivation and attempts at forceful imposition of Krsna consciousness are not acceptable practices.
- That the children in the school receive an official apology for the negligence of the CPO, that they be reassured about ISKCON's intention to respect their rights and that everything will be done to ensure such mistakes are not repeated. The children also need to be instructed on how they can themselves report incidents of corporal punishment.
- That the report of the incident that Radha Kantha das gave to Nirguna dasi be carefully compared with the one submitted by Vrajabhumi prabhu.
- That inquiries be made to ascertain why Padyavali dasi was discharged from her services as a teacher in the Gurukula. It would be a good idea to ask her opinion of the school management.
- That, if it emerges that Padyavali prabhu was discharged without valid reasons, both she and Vrajabhumi prabhu should be encouraged to resume their services.
- That the CPO source a qualified, experienced and senior devotee to take on the service of principal for the Vrindavana Gurukula.
- That in light of the recent events, since another incident of corporal punishment surfaced in the Vrindavana Gurukula about a year ago, the CPO make inquiries to ascertain the reliability of the report that the school submitted on the previous occasion.
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