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Education ministry backtracks, confirm sexual harassment investigation

Education Ministry Jpeg

The education ministry, which had initially rejected a student’s claims that she was sexually abused at the school, on Thursday confirmed police were investigating the incident.

“Regarding the incident at a secondary school in the Nicosia district…a case of indecent assault is under investigation,” the education ministry said citing police information.

It added the case will be investigated by the police while the education ministry has initiated disciplinary proceedings for the three students allegedly involved, which included a minor from another school. An investigating officer has also been appointed by the education ministry.

“Irrespective of the final assessment of the complaint, the ministry considers such incidents as very serious cases and therefore an investigation will be conducted into all aspects.”

The student who was assaulted was offered the option for psychological support, the statement said.

A day earlier, when the school sexual assault hit the headlines, the education ministry said they had “handled the matter” explaining police had investigated and found no proof of the harassment.

“Following an investigation by the police, there was no sexual harassment…the school unit handled the matter, in cooperation with the police, in an appropriate manner,” the ministry had said.

Investigations into the case started after the student herself lodged an official complaint in the presence of her parents on May 17 in Nicosia.

According to her statement, two of her classmates and a third person, who entered the school grounds unauthorised, sexually harassed her and sexually abused her at the school premises during school hours.

Police spokesman Christos Andreou told CyBC radio on Wednesday that the case remains under investigation, over a week after the complaint was made.

The alleged assault comes against a backdrop of a series of sexual harassment incidents involving students and teachers. Organised parents last year had expressed “deep concern for the safety and wellbeing of our children in their schools, the place where they should be able to feel safe and secure.”

At the time Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou said such sexual harassment is inevitable considering the large number of the school population.

“Within a population of more than ten thousand teachers and about a hundred thousand students, such unacceptable incidents inevitably occur,” he said, adding that the ministry will show “zero tolerance”.

Meanwhile, in April, MPs called for sex education programmes in schools, which would aim, among others, to educate children on how to recognise and navigate abusive behaviours.

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