A 27-year-old physical education teacher of a Navi Mumbai school was arrested on Monday for allegedly molesting four students when they were returning with him from a sports tournament in Pune on Sunday.
The teacher, who was drunk at the time of the incident, has been suspended by the school managed by the Ryan Group.
According to a complaint with the Khopoli police station, the teacher got drunk on Saturday night after his team lost a state-level roller ball skating game. He continued drinking the next day too when the team left for Navi Mumbai on Sunday afternoon. When the team — 12 boys and an equal number of girls –stopped at McDonald’s restaurant in Khopoli for snacks, he touched four girls inappropriately in a drunken stupor.
Upset students called their parents and asked them to wait at the school for the team bus’s arrival. As soon as the bus reached the school and the students narrated the incident, the parents approached the school management.
Even as the school was looking into the complaint – talking to the students and the teacher –some parents approached the Rabale police station. An FIR was registered immediately and the Rabale police summoned the teacher for questioning.
Though the case was eventually transferred to the Khopoli police station, a Rabale police officer said the teacher was reeking of alcohol when he arrived for questioning. He was sent to the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation Hospital in Vashi for a blood test, the results of which are awaited.
According to the father of one of the girls in the bus, the teacher was very upset over the team’s loss. “He drank before boarding the bus before the team stopped at Khopoli for snacks. This is when he touched the girls inappropriately.”
“My daughter called us and asked us to be at the school before the scheduled time of the team’s arrival. When she saw us at the school, she broke down and told us about the incident. He has been coaching our kids for the past three years. We never thought something of this sort could happen,” she said.
Apart from the drunk teacher, there was another male physical education teacher and the mother of one of the students travelling with the team. The woman told the school authorities that she had alerted the drunk teacher’s colleague about the situation but was told there was nothing to worry about.
The teacher was detained overnight at the Rabale police station and handed over to the Khopoli police in the morning on Monday.
A case of sexual harassment has been registered against him under the Prevention of Child Sexual Offences Act. He faces a term of imprisonment between five to seven years if found guilty. “We have transferred the case to the Khopoli police. He was under the influence of alcohol when he was taken for medical examination. His blood samples have been sent for testing,” said Investigating Officer Seema Munde of the Rabale police station.
This is the second case of sexual assault registered against a staff member of a school under the Ryan group. The last incident took place on August 31, when the principal of an Andheri-based school was arrested for an alleged sexual assault on a six-year-old boy.
“We are cooperating fully with the police in the investigations and the school has a policy of zero tolerance in such matters. The teacher has been suspended and if there is any indication of misbehaviour on his part, then his contract will be terminated,” said Prem Shetty, a management member.