JIS and all those unasked questions

Last Thursday Unspun attended the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club’s discussion on child abuse, where Jakarta International School headmaster Tim Carr volunteered to be a speaker.

The other speakers were Seto Mulyadi from the National Commission on Child Protection and Child Protction Commission Secretary-general Elfrida. Unspun was at the discussion until about the end when he had to leave for a prior commitment, but it was one of the strangest journalistic events he’s attended because of the questions asked and more importantly, not asked.

Some might argue that local journalists may, out of cultural or educational reasons, shy from asking pointed and direct questions, but these were primarily Westerners so it was indeed quite disturbing to note the caliber of the questioning.

One of the questions the journalists there asked were of Carr’s opinion of  the “anti-Western bias” in local reports about the JIS incident. This allowed Carr to lace into the irresponsibility of the journalists covering this incident.

But what anti-Western bias was there in the first place? Unspun’s been following the news in the English and Bahasa newspapers and news portals. There was some very bad and insensitive reporting – failure to double check facts with all sources, harassing children, revealing identities of victims and others prematurely, indiscriminate and tasteless reporting of information etc. – but there did not seem to be any anti-Western bias in the reports.

Carr also laced into the local media that failed to ask for their side of the story when reporting about the child molestation cases. This was after he admitted freely that JIS had been slow and unresponsive in its communications in the week after the news broke.

Unspun was waiting for a journalist to ask him, “but who could have reached you during the first week if they wanted to get your side of the story?” Alas, though, no one did.

Then there were the unasked questions – questions actually being asked by the mums of international school students – that Unspun would have thought would come from at least one of the journalists – but none asked.

One natural question would have been: “What is the standard operating procedure for teachers when kindergarten kids go to the toilet?” Do they have to be accompanied by a teacher? Do they have to go in pairs? Do they have, like in some international schools, only five minutes to get their business done or else the teacher will come looking for them?

Five minutes out of direct adult supervision is a long time for a kid but not long enough for perverts to have their way with them (This was something that Unspun did not understand until he became a father). This gives rise to another question: How long did the perpetrators take with their victims?

A few of the perpetrators doing all those things to the child victims would have taken at least 15 to 30 minutes. Wouldn’t this be too long for a kindergarten child to go unsupervised? What was the teacher’s responsibility?

Another question: What, for that matter, is the standard operating procedure for teachers during recess time? Do they give them free reign and go to the toilet by themselves unsupervised? If so what is the procedure or safety measures to ensure their well-being?

Then there are the geographic questions:

How far was the toilet from the kindergarten? In some schools it was intentionally located very close to the classes. Was the JIS toilet close to the kindergarten? Was it 20, 50, 100 meters away or further?

And the CCTV camera: Where was it aimed at?

Toward the end of the JFCC discussion Carr was asked about whether he knew of a second case. He said JIS had been given no information about it.

And that was it! No journalist followed up on his statement. If Unspun had still been a journalist (they get first rights to question the guests at the JFCC function) Unspun would have asked a series of questions, namely:

“The news of the second victim had broken the day before, so have you conducted your own investigation into these allegations, never mind what you have been told or not?”

As it was, Elfrida from KPAI, shortly after Carr said he had not been given any information about the second incident, revealed that there was a second victim and she apparently (Unspun had left by then but was told by a journalist friend) gave out the victim’s name as well.

What no one asked also was whether Carr knew about another case of child molestation that happened about 20 years ago by a janitor. A JIS alumni wrote about her experience on Facebook. She said that when she reported the matter to JIS they sacked the janitor and was very good to her. She subsequently took down the posting because of some adverse factions she got from some of her readers.

Unspun knows that alumni and believes she was telling the truth (and confirmed with her that her case had nothing to do with Vahey, the pedophile who took his life after the FBI homed in on him) . If this is accurate, then JIS should have on record this child molestation case and had chosen to keep quiet about it, which gives rise to the question of what other cases it has chosen to keep quiet about. What did it do about the report on that case? How did it strengthen its procedures and other safety measures because of it, or did it learn nothing from it and did nothing?

Whether there are other skeletons in the closet is anybody’s guess but the rumour mill, especially among the parents of international schools, is going on overdrive about the probability of other cases.

Is JIS a responsible school and as much a victim as anyone else to the evil that child predators do? Or is it an arrogant institution so full of itself that it cannot come to terms with its weaknesses – and therefore, like the protagonist in a Greek tragedy, forever condemned to perpetuate its mistakes – is anybody’s guess right now.

The pity is that the one institution (if you do not have much faith in the Police) that can help shed light on this matter and JIS’s role in it – the Press – is not asking the right questions. Unspun doesn’t know why.

Old timers  that he hangs out with say that the journalists these days just doesn’t have that pit-bull tenacity in chasing down a story any more. But that is what the older generation usually says of the younger ones.

But still, why aren’t these questions being asked by the journalists?

Read also this posting, one of very few that raises the right questions.






The JIS case: It never rains but it pours

One of the characteristics of a crisis-like situation is that when you think that things can’t get worse, they do.

It now turns out that a “prolific” child predator, who taught at the Jakarta International School (JIS) about 2 decades ago, took his life because the FBI was investigating his alleged trangressions (see CNN story below).

JIS knew about Vahey and JIS headmaster Tim Carr alluded to him in his press conference, saying that they were assisting the FBI for a case that occurred 17 years ago.

None of the media took up the story then but now that Vahey’s death has brought his case, and the fact that he worked at JIS in the past, into the limelight there will be renewed interest in the possible extent of the adage he did while at JIS.

It may be an answer that no one is able to answer adequately but that won’t stop the media from trying to find instantaneous answers.

So now there is Vahey, an alleged separate instance of a janitor molesting a JIS student around that time (was posted in an alumni’s FB page and then taken down soon after) and now the incident with the six-year old boy. The media will want to know if there are any other skeletons in the closet.

One can only hope that JIS is being prepped to handle the slew of questions that will surely come their way.

FBI seeks victims of ‘prolific’ international child predator – CNN.com

FBI seeks victims of ‘prolific’ international child predator

By CNN Staff

April 22, 2014 — Updated 2115 GMT (0515 HKT)

Images provided by the FBI show William James Vahey in 2013 (left) and in 1986.


FBI: William James Vahey taught at private schools in 9 countries for 42 years

He’s one of “the most prolific alleged predators we’ve ever seen,” agent tells KPRC

Thumb drive allegedly contained images depicting sexual assault on children

FBI is asking potential victims to contact them or nearest American Embassy

Images provided by the FBI show William James Vahey in 2013 (left) and in 1986.

(CNN) — An alleged child predator who taught at schools across the world for more than four decades may have more victims, and the FBI is trying to track them down, the agency’s Houston bureau said Tuesday.

William James Vahey killed himself in Luverne, Minnesota, last month, two days after a federal judge in Houston said authorities could search one of Vahey’s thumb drives that allegedly contained images depicting sexual assault on children, CNN affiliate KPRC reported.

There were images of at least 90 victims, dating back to 2008, and the FBI is encouraging additional alleged victims to come forward. The images on the thumb drive allegedly belonging to Vahey showed boys, estimated to be between 12 and 14 years old, asleep or unconscious, the agency said.

The images had captions and dates referencing places that Vahey had previously traveled with students, the FBI said.

“This is one of the most prolific alleged predators we’ve ever seen,” Houston FBI Special Agent Shauna Dunlap told the station.

Vahey began teaching in private schools in 1972, the FBI says. He last taught at the American Nicaraguan School in Pista Suburbana, Managua, Nicaragua from August 2013 until March 11, two days before he committed suicide, KPRC reported.

The case came to law enforcement attention after Vahey fired his maid for allegedly stealing personal items from his home last year, KPRC said. In March, the ex-maid brought a stolen thumb drive to the American Nicaraguan School, saying she came forward because the drive contained sexual images, the station reported.

The FBI said that when Vahey was confronted with the images, he “reportedly admitted molesting boys throughout his entire life and said he gave the minors sleeping pills prior to the molestation.”

He had residences in London and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, and traveled extensively, the FBI said. He worked at schools in nine countries, teaching a variety of subjects and coaching boys’ basketball. He regularly accompanied students on overnight field trips, the FBI said.

The schools where he taught are, according to the FBI:

— American Nicaraguan School in Managua, Nicaragua (2013-2014)

— Southbank International School in London, United Kingdom (2009-2013)

— Escuela Campo Alegre in Caracas, Venezuela (2002-2009)

— Jakarta International School in Jakarta, Indonesia (1992-2002)

— Saudi Aramco Schools in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia (1980-1992)

— American Community School in Athens, Greece (1978-1980)

— Passargad School in Ahwaz, Iran (1976-1978)

— American School of Madrid in Spain (1975-1976)

— American Community School of Beirut in Lebanon (1973-1975)

— Tehran American School in Iran (1972-1973)

Anyone who has information on Vahey and who believes he victimized them can send a confidential e-mail to HOvictimassistance@ic.fbi.gov or contact their local FBI office or nearest U.S. Embassy.


Lessons from JIS’s late communications

After a week of silence since news broke on the child molestation case, JIS finally broke the silence and called a press conference.

At the press conference, the school’s headmaster Tim Carr covered at least 2 of the 3Rs of crisis communications: Regret (“We want the family to know that we are with them and that we feel their pain. We are so sorry that this child was harmed,”), Remedy: (working with KPAI and the Police and reviewing their security arrangements).

He was silent on the Reason of how such an event could have been allowed to occur though, selecting instead to explain why they have not been seen to have been evasive. He rightly blamed it on their tardiness to communicate: “JIS believes it could have handled communication with the community better than it has, and for that, we apologize to the surrounding community and the parents.”

That is a bit short of the Reason but the admission of fallibility, contrition and a plan to move forward seems to be enough for the journalists. A quick check on the Twitter feed this morning also suggests that that press conference  might have taken much of the sting out of the situation for JIS.

The delivery was not flawless but it was pretty good given the condition they were in. The question now is whether that press conference is good enough to help JIS regain control of the situation, or was it too little too late. Time will tell as the saga is not yet over by a long shot, although JIS may be on the road to recovery.

Some of the information coming out from Unspun’s sources seem to indicate that it wasn’t all JIS’s fault. Apparently JIS had appointed a PR firm early, just after news broke on the incident, but something went wrong and a new PR firm was appointed only on Saturday when they apparently also hired a lawyer. Hence JIS missed a whole week before it communicated to the public. A week is a very long time in crisis-like situations where impressions set quickly and early. JIS missed that early window to project an image of openness, empathy and having a plan to lead the school and its community out of the situation.

JIS now has to face the closure of its Kindergarten operations, scrutiny of the work permits of its staff and a lawsuit by the parents of the child (although little could have mitigated the parent’s decision once they decided to go public on the matter).

JIS, nonetheless, should be congratulated for seeking professional help, in terms of legal and communications matters. It is at least now in a better position to begin the long, hard trek toward restoring some of its reputation and goodwill.

The lesson that other insitutions and organisations should take away from this incident is that we all are vulnerable to crisis-like situations and should take steps to prepare for it. How they can prepare for such eventualities is through what we in the trade call Crisis Management Training that teaches executives of a company or institution on how to cope with the stress, time compression, confusion and uncertainties of a crisis like situation.

Such training also  teaches them how to manage their operational and communications responses in tandem so that they do not sow confusion and suspicion to the public. From what has been said so far it appears that JIS was good in its operational response – meeting the parents before hand, offering help for the care of the boy, working with the police etc – but neglected its communications response. So when the news broke they were caught flat-footed, got caught up in the confusion and began to look evasive.

A subset of crisis Management is Crisis Communications where spokespersons of the institution or company are trained on what to say and how to say it during crisis situations. Such training would include fielding difficult, accusatory questions that are common in such situations.

But will companies and institutions at least learn not to take the likelihood of encountering a crisis-like situation – and along with it crisis management and crisis communications skills – for granted and do something about it?

To help you decide how JIS did in the press conference yesterday, here’s a videoclip of the press conference:

And here’s a the story of the press conference in Jakarta Post:

JIS issues apology to family, community | The Jakarta Post

A week after the rape of a kindergarten pupil at Jakarta International School (JIS) by cleaning workers became public knowledge, representatives from JIS apologized on Monday.

JIS head Tim Carr, accompanied by a translator and JIS spokesperson Daniarti Wusono, extended an apology to the family of the victim and members of the community at a press conference at the Sultan Hotel in Central Jakarta.

“We want the family to know that we are with them and that we feel their pain. We are so sorry that this child was harmed,” Carr said.

During the press conference, Carr insisted that despite the evasive image that the school projected in response to the case, JIS was fully cooperating with the police investigation and the government.

JIS also denied allegations there were more cases of abuse at the school. Carr apologized for how the school had communicated with the parents and public in the case.

“JIS believes it could have handled communication with the community better than it has, and for that, we apologize to the surrounding community and the parents,” he said.

Carr considered everybody at the school accountable for this incident but insisted that no teachers would be held responsible.

When asked about accusations of crime scene tampering made by the victim’s family lawyer, OC Kaligis, on Sunday, Carr said renovations to the restrooms had been done on police recommendations.

“We showed the police the crime scene and we asked them for advice about altering its physical environment so we could enhance security there. We do not believe it has been altered in a way that could hinder the investigation,” Carr said.

He denied claims that the victim’s family was instructed by JIS to not speak to the media.

“They made their own decisions [in speaking to the media]. We will respect the privacy and human rights of the child, despite what the family chooses to do,” he said.

His words also contradicted the victim’s mother’s recent public statements stating that JIS had never contacted the family directly about the issue, or in person.

“We contacted the parents by telephone on March 21 and I personally met with the victim’s father the next day, discussing how the school could support the victim medically and emotionally,” he said. He added that the father had requested the incident details to be confidential.

The school plans to launch its own independent investigation, which includes reevaluating its security practices, with help from the US, Australian and UK embassies.

Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto said 28 cleaning staff from the external cleaning service company ISS were taken for blood tests at Kramat Jati Police Hospital in East Jakarta on Monday. (dyl)



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.