New school safety guidelines: New school safety guidelines: 11 types of negligence will lead to penal action against school

New school safety guidelines: New school safety guidelines: 11 types of negligence will lead to penal action against school

Four years after a seven-year-old boy was found murdered in an international school in Gurugram, the Union education ministry has drawn up school safety and accountability guidelines – on the orders of the Supreme Court and based on suggestions of an expert committee.

The new ‘Guidelines on School Safety and Security‘ circulated this week to all states for implementation across all government and private schools, list out 11 categories of ‘negligence‘ for which school administration will be held accountable.

Non-compliance will attract fines up to 5% of the total revenue in the preceding year for a private school with bar on fresh admissions and even possible derecognition.

The guidelines are to be notified by states under provisions of the Right to Education Act, 2009 and Juvenile Justice Model Rules, 2016.

The 11 categories of negligence are based significantly on the learnings from the poor handling of the 2017 murder besides the larger focus on ‘holistic’ physical as well as psycho-social safety of students.

The guidelines have specified actionable ‘negligences’ that include the failure to provide timely medical aid to students, delay in actions in times of disaster or crime, security-related lapses, suppression of facts and not reporting to the appropriate authority.

Those apart, negligence in establishing a secured infrastructure for the students and children with special needs, negligence in the quality of food and water, laxity in taking action against a complaint reported by a student figure among the categories.

Corporal punishment, including mental and emotional harassment, failure to prevent bullying, discriminatory actions, substance abuse, lapses in implementation of Covid-19 guidelines will also invite action by government.

The guidelines suggest that in case of non-compliance by a private school, the parent-teacher association must flag off the issue to the block education officer, who will have to alert the district magistrate. The DM will hold an inquiry into alleged act of negligence .

If negligence is established in an inquiry, the DM can impose a fine on school equivalent to 1% , 2% or 5% of the total revenue generated in the preceding year for the first/second/third case of non-compliance and/or debarr the school for taking admission in the subsequent academic year- as per extant rules.

Continued negligence will have to be reported to the state education department, which can temporarily derecognise the school and take other penal action and even consider permanent derecognition of the school, but only after ensuring student interest is protected.

A similar – education Officer-DM- state-education-department-trajectory will be followed for non-compliance in government schools.

The guidelines also call on states to include conditions for fixing responsibility of safety and security on school management/principal/head of school in private schools among the conditions for recognition of schools as mandated under Section 18(2) of the Right to Education Act.

The new guidelines are based on three key ideas – accountability and legal framework with all relevant laws; a ‘whole school’ safety approach with clear demarcated responsibilities for all stakeholders from teachers to non-teaching staff, school management and parent; and a ‘multi-sectoral approach’ to the school, looking at roles of homes, societies and even of all related ministries, from drinking water and sanitation to social justice and empowerment, information and broadcasting, and home affairs.

An overall implementation plan for making schools safe and secure – ‘DRISHTI’ (dissemination, roll-out, interventions, support, handholding, tracking, and incentivising) – has been worked out and circulated to all states.

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