JIS digging itself deeper into trouble

Update:, 17 April: Unspun’s been told that JIS has appointed an international PR firm to help them. Hopefully we’ll see better communications from them. also see latest posting on JIS and its press conference here

This post is dedicated to many of Unspun’s friends who are very loyal alumni to The Jakarta International School (JIS). It is good to see such loyalty in such modern times and shifting norms.

Their alma mater is now in a crisis situation. Police apparently have acted on the report of a parent and have now arrested two janitors who had molested a 6-year old student. They have also detained a woman claening staff for complicty.

The news over this incident has broken and it is all over the mass and social media.

Given such circumstances the only way that JIS can hope to mitigatte the reputational and fiancial damage to itself is to be SEEN to care, to be open about what happened and to have a viable plan to make sure that something like this does not happen ever again.

Yet JIS seems to be doing it all wrong, as picked up in this Jakarta Post story:

School Safety, Security our Priority, says JIS

To begin with it initially chose silence. To any reporter and the social media pack, silence means an admission of guilt. JIS may be thinking that they were trying to solve it in a dignified manner by keeping silent but that is, unfortunately, how the world works. They expect accountability, especially from a prestigous and expensive institution.

Then when it chose to speak up, its statement was full of horrendous word choices.

School security, safety our priority, says JIS

Jakarta International School (JIS) has — until now — kept quite over the allegations of sexual assault involving one of its students.

The reputable international school finally broke its silence today as it stressed its responsibility for the safety of pupils and the security of the school during a meeting at the Education and Culture Ministry on Wednesday afternoon.

“We are here to convey our statements to the Education and Culture Ministry over the allegations of a disgraceful incident that occurred in our school. Our main focus, which we have paid close attention to and will maintain in the future, is to put forward the prosperity of the students and their families as well as the safety and security of our school community,” JIS headmaster Tim Carr said in a press conference at the Education and Culture Ministry on Wednesday as quoted by kompas.com.

He was speaking after a meeting he attended on the invitation of the ministry’s directorate general of informal and non-formal early childhood education (PAUDNI).

Deputy headmaster Steve Druggan and JIS human resources manager Megumi were also present.

Carr said the school was ready to cooperate with the Education and Culture Ministry, the National Police and other stakeholders in the ongoing investigation.

Responding the reports, PAUDNI director general Lydia Freyani Hawad said she would directly lead the investigative team and the investigation would start Thursday. “The team will conduct a comprehensive audit on JIS,” said Lydia. (idb/ebf)

Instead of saying that they care and regret what happened to the victim JIS chose officialese by saying that they were there “to convey our statements” to the Government. Where is the empathy, the caring, the regret? What’s so damned important about them conveying statements?

Then JIS headmaster was supposed to have said: ” Our main focus…is to put forward the prosperity of the students and their families …” Prosperity? Bad English? Buth it is an American school, manned by native English speakers.

And then Jis said it was “ready to cooperate” with the Ministey of Education? In difficult times when you’re being accused of wrongdoing you” cooperate fully ” with the regulators, you do not signal your intention that you’re “ready to cooperate.” On reading such statements officials would think you’re arrogant.

JIS subsequently denying Ministry officials access into the school does jot seem to signal its readiness to cooperate.

To a seasoned crisis managment professional JIS seems to be digging a deeper hole for itself with such clumsy efforts at communication. A pity because all this will help set itself up as a prime target for overzealous and nationalistic politicians, carpetbaggers, those envious of its prestige and those given to schadenfreude.

If JIS is serious about trying to salvage whatever good name it has lef, and to remain in business in Indonesia, it must seek professional crisis management counsel fast – and listen to them.

8 thoughts on “JIS digging itself deeper into trouble

Add yours

  1. With 2 innocent guys locked up and JIS sued for $125 million are you still holding this line?

    Aren’t you embarrassed to have written this tripe?


    1. *sigh* should I point out to you to look at the post’s date of publication to get some context? Apart from that what has the amount JIS is being sued for got to do with JIS’ s tardy and inadequate response? I also disagree that the two guys (who must be presumed innocent because they have not been proven to be guilty) being locked up but again look at the date of the posting.


      1. sign….when you publish, then you have a responsibility to ensure that your words are true and accurate. So if you want to tell us that JIS had a poor response initially- did you discuss with any parents at the school to find out what they had been informed at the time? Perhaps JIS was focused on securing the privacy of the child and cooperating with the police in the case- did you ask them why they acted the way they did? As a writer and expert surely you have an obligation to make sure your facts are right.

        In a western legal system it would have been inexcusable to hold a media conference and expose the details about the case that were exposed in the media. The core clients of the school – the parents and stakeholders- would have been outraged beyond comprehension had the school done this.

        And the details of how and when JIS responded are coming out in court now. If they knew about the possibility of the men being beaten in custody, should the school have come out and said so? Even if they only suspected? Would that not have been a PR disaster with the public assuming that they were guilty?

        You appear to confuse the desire by the media for information with the rights of the public to know relevant details about a criminal case before it is tried in court. This is what annoys me the most- by your lack of rigor you actually fall into the same trap that you accuse journalists of being guilty of.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. “In a western legal system it would have been inexcusable to hold a media conference and expose the details about the case that were exposed in the media.” We are not in a western legal system so live with it.

        Even in Western systems there is a difference between what you can report under Common Law and, say, the Amrican legal system.

        But that is not the point. The point is that whether in Indonesia or elsewhere once a crisis-like situation hits an organization, the matter is usually resolved in the public eye. I am not saying that this is right. Just that that’s how life is.

        Another characteristic of crisis-like situations, and the media covering it, is that things are perceived in black and white terms. You are either the good guy or you’re the bad guy. Again, this is not right but that’s life. So what JIS needed to do very quickly – before public opinion gels – is to control the narrative and project an image that it is open (nothing to hide), that it takes responsibility for the situation (that’s not tantamount to admitting guilt), that it has things under control, that it is cooperating with the authorities and that it is empathic to the complainants.

        All that can be done by delivering a holding statement that does not have to touch on the sensitive details of the case. No names need to be divulged etc. If it is delivered well it will help portray JIS is responsive, open, empathetic and actively finding a solution.

        In Crisis Management this is called the Dual Track approach. Managing the operational response in tandem with the communications response. What JIS did is to manage the operational response while neglecting the communications response.

        You bring up an interesting point: If JIS knew about the


        of the men being beaten in custody, should the school have come out and said so?

        A difficult choice. JIS chose not to. The result. More beatings,a protracted case, lots of stress and angst. What if it could hire the lawyers and others to try to verify the reports of beatings and made that public through their lawyers? Would the police beat the men more or be frightened off by the glare of publicity?

        The problem is that in a crisis-like situation, the truth does not always set you free. Perception becomes sometimes a more determining factor. Read Daniel Khaneman’s thoughts on System 1 and System 2 thinking in his book Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow and you’ll understand.

        You seem to be arguing that right will always triumph over evil, right over wrong. Isn’t this a bit of wishful thinking? Sure we should be right but with skill, or we get nowhere fast.


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