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.