With Covid-19 in the picture, most classes have been shifted online. While technological inaccessibility remains a persistent problem, classroom safety is another concern for students attending these classes.
Classroom safety refers to the safe space created in a classroom devoid of harassment, both physical and verbal, bullying. It is a space for students where they can feel safe and a secure environment is offered to them, which helps them learn efficiently.
While problems of physical harassment are not present in online classes, other problems of compromised privacy are prevalent and are targeted especially towards female students. It is not uncommon for a female student’s number to get leaked via online classes. Harassers use the number to send unsolicited pictures, videos and texts.
In Tamil Nadu, a teacher from a well-known school was called out for sending lewd messages to adolescent girls present in the class. This teacher also violated the basic decorum of attending an online class. He even threatened to decrease the marks of those students who complained against him.
Though the school authority board penalised him for such behaviour, often such behaviour goes unpunished.
In colleges, too, teachers and peer mates take unfair advantage of public information of the students and use it unfairly. Alongside sexual harassment, peers and teachers are often caught making racist, sexist and casteist remarks. Recently, an IIT professor was found using casteist slurs against students from marginalised sections.
Bullying also takes place in certain cases where either the teacher or the student bullies another fellow student.
While many colleges have taken notice of this, very little has been done about the same. Some colleges have constituted a board of equity members. But many lack the provisions and the awareness to constitute such a board.
In a pandemic situation where everyday families are losing their members, it becomes difficult for students to keep up with academic pressure. Therefore the role of educators and peers to be sensitive becomes increasingly important.
Compromising privacy through an online system of education is not a tradeoff that should be made. Online classes will continue for the foreseeable future. Therefore, institutions should take extreme care in preventing such unethical behaviour.