In recent months the international school world has been rocked by child abuse accusations. Most prominent is the case of Jim Vahey, a career international school teacher who worked at several schools around the world in Iran, Lebanon, Spain, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Venezuela. In all probability, Vahey abused children in multiple schools over three decades.
Our sister IASAS school, JIS, has also been shaken by allegations of child abuse and even the detainment without charge of an elementary learning coach and an instructional assistant. To date, the detainees have been in prison for over 70 days without any evidence produced or formal charges made.
The International decided to sit down with our Head of School, Dr. Andrew Davies, to get his comments and thoughts on what has happened and what ISB is doing in response.
What steps and precautions are ISB taking in reaction to these events?
Like a lot of international schools, we’re playing catch up with respect to our child protection measures. Typically, schools are supported by states and national governments that require certain procedures to be followed, enact laws, and support schools with their child protection work. Because international schools are often isolated from national governments, we have fallen behind in this regard.
So we’ll be bringing in a company from the UK that will conduct an audit on our child protection measures and then train staff and award certification. They’ll then visit us every two or three years to make sure we’re up to date. So the kind of things this would involve would be the training of our staff, assistance with appropriate procedures to follow, preventative measures to put in place, and the development of policies to institutionalize our work.
We’re also going to make sure we run all of our staff and outside providers through background checks.
We have a lot to do, but fortunately we have the resources to bring in experts and make sure we get caught up quickly. We’ll be doing age-appropriate education about child protection so that kids are aware of their own precautions. So if you’re a very little kid, you get to know where an adult can safely touch you –that’s a bit sensitive– but it’s a good life skill to have regardless.
We’re also going to improve campus security, since at the moment we’re a pretty easy campus to get into. They will be a system put in so any adult without an ID card needs to physically see a member of our security staff and answer some questions.
We’ll be bringing in outside experts to make the campus more secure physically. We’ve also been working with the regional security officer at the US embassy, an FBI agent, on that regard.
How can ISB students show their support for those at JIS?
There is a Facebook page I am aware of that ISB community members can join. On this page there is a petition where they are trying to get lots of signatures around the world to pressure the Indonesian government into following expected norms of justice in the treatment of a JIS teacher and instructional assistant. They’ve been behind bars for over seventy days* now without any evidence against them revealed and no charges made.
Do have any other general comments you’d like to share regarding what happened at JIS, or our response here at ISB?
All the IASAS Schools are being very supportive of JIS. Our faculty joined a worldwide vigil in support of the two staff members that have been held without charge for over two months. We’ve just been trying to send our good wishes their way. Luckily, JIS has opened with good enrollment and the community spirit is strong.
Austin Gallagher (11)