Tears and anger at a Lalitpur school after revelations about a teacher’s history of sexual abuseNearly a hundred parents and former students had gathered at the premises of Lalitpur Madhyamik in Lagankhel following the Kathmandu Post’s investigation on how Tripathee had sexually molested children for decades while a teacher at the school.
Marissa Taylor & Pranaya SJB Rana
Sunday morning at Lalitpur Madhyamik Vidyalaya was tense. A crowd of former students and parents had gathered at the gates of a community-run Lagankhel-based school. Visibly upset and angry, they were waiting for the gates to open so they could confront the school administration over allegations of sexual abuse by Bodha Raj ‘Basu’ Tripathee, a maths teacher.
Hours later, Vice Principal Geeta Sitaula emerged from a closed meeting with the student and parent representatives to announce that Tripathee had already been fired on Saturday—except he hadn’t.
Nearly a hundred parents and former students had gathered at the premises of Lalitpur Madhyamik in Lagankhel following the Kathmandu Post’s investigation on how Tripathee had sexually molested children for decades while a teacher at the school. Seven women had recounted how Tripathee would touch them inappropriately in class and how his behaviour, although common knowledge, had been ignored by the school administration.
“We will speak to the administration and explore what legal options we have,” said Stebin Bajracharya, a former student. He, like many others there, had shown up at the school following a call for action on social media by former students. Many gathered outside the school recounted experiences of abuse and inappropriate behaviour, not just at the hands of Tripathee, but also a number of other teachers.
“There was one teacher who would kiss us on the lips and even touch our chests,” said Salina Karki, who finished her tenth grade from LMV in 2007. The teacher Karki referred to is no longer at Lalitpur Madhyamik Vidyalaya—he’s reportedly gone on to work at a prestigious all-girls school in the same city.
As the crowd grew by mid-morning, more former students started to share their own experiences, leading to heightened emotions. One former student, Bidushi Raut, broke down while recounting her story of abuse by Tripathee. She had just joined the school in the eighth grade, in 2014, when Tripathee abused her, she said. He had only recently been moved to teaching older children.
When the students, parents and school administration retreated to an inside room for a private meeting, more students and even parents testified to Tripathee’s behaviour. One parent, who wished to stay anonymous, said that she had spoken to the vice principal last summer about Tripathee’s misbehaviour with her seventh-grade daughter.
“My daughter is weak in Maths so I asked her why she never consulted the teacher about her problems,” the parent told the Post. “She said she didn’t feel comfortable around him and when I pressed her, she said that Tripathee would hold her hand and touch her inappropriately.”
Despite her daughter’s requests to not talk to anyone, the parent spoke to Sitaula, who earlier had denied all knowledge of Tripathee’s behaviour.
Teachers at the school say they were unaware of Tripathee’s behaviour. “I had once heard rumours about it, and I had even spoken to the girl’s brother but he brushed it off and I didn’t give it much thought either,” said one teacher who has been at the school for the past 19 years. “This issue does not just concern an individual; it is about the school’s reputation now.”
Outside, agitated parents demanded that the administration address their questions, and punish Tripathee for his behaviour.
“My elder daughter was victimised by Tripathee, too, while she was a student here,” said another parent who also chose to remain anonymous. “And I have another daughter in sixth grade right now. How can we be assured that schools will take the protection of our children seriously? How can we be sure that Tripathee does not repeat his actions?”
Many parents also wondered why Tripathee had not been punished, given how widespread knowledge of his actions was. Few surmised familial links to the school’s principal and director. One teacher at the school said that Tripathee’s father had been the priest of Uttam Tripathi, the school’s director, back in Kavre. The Post couldn’t independently confirm Tripathee’s connection to the school’s administration.
An hour-and-a-half later, when the meeting came to an end, Sabrina Basnet, a student representative, announced that they had put forth a list of demands, a number of which the school was willing to address immediately. One of their demands was that members of the school administration who had known about Tripathee’s behaviour should step down. Their second demand was that the administration, in coordination with the alumni, make reformation policies, which include classes for students and training for teachers on what constitutes sexual harassment. Their third demand was that the administration publicly apologise to all parents and students for staying silent for so long.
Sitaula, the vice principal, also appeared in front of the crowd and said Tripathee had been suspended following the Post reporters’ request for comment on Thursday. In response to a query asking whether Tripathee had been fired or simply suspended, Situala reiterated that he had been fired after the Post’s investigation was published on Saturday.
However, hours later, the Post obtained a document signed between the students and the school representatives that showed Tripathee had only been suspended and had been given a week to furnish clarification in compliance with labour union laws.
When asked why she had told parents and students that Tripathee had been fired, a frustrated Sitaula said she was confused and refused to answer the question.
Student representatives told the Post that they had reached a collective decision to register a First Information Report (FIR) against Tripathee at the Metropolitan Police Range in Jawalakhel, by the students, parents and school administration. But an administrative official at the Police Range on Sunday afternoon refused to file the FIR, citing the statute of limitations regarding past abuse cases. The statute of limitations for childhood abuse, according to Article 74 (2) of the Act Relating to Children, is a year after a person turns 18. One parent, whose daughter had recently experienced abuse at Tripathee’s hands, backed down from filing the FIR at the very last moment.
Student representatives said that they would continue to explore options to pursue a legal case against Tripathee.
Have you experienced sexual harassment at work or have a confidential tip you’d like to share? You can securely get in touch with The Kathmandu Post editors using our encrypted email account: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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