Jakarta International School

The worst kind at the worst possible place.

I didn’t mean to get all so annoyed but this recent case with Jakarta International School kinda ticked me off. Just to be clear, I read only what I could find on the internet and also a great deal more from the live broadcast of Indonesian Lawyers Club on TVOne last night (Tue, April 22, 2o14).

Everyone — the mother of the poor child, her lawyers, JIS lawyers, government lawyers, some senior police officer as well as at least one DPR member. They were all given ample time to explain their side of the story and what I learned was nothing short of shocking.

Jakarta International School is a fancy institution with a pedigree to match. According to Wikipedia, it was established in 1951, as a school for the children of United Nations staff posted in Jakarta, the capital of the then newly independent Indonesia. The school ground where this particular incident took place is located on the more expensive side of town, build like a mini fortress with barbed wires, layered bomb barrier, forever alert CCTV cameras pointed at suspecting passer-byes and majestic proportion of traffic jam during school hours.

For most of the Jakarta elites, the school was the ultimate symbol of what the best money can buy for their child education. There’s a quota placed on how many Indonesian kids are allowed as a percentage, kinda like twisted affirmative action in a version that resembles more of segregation. The security apparatus also consider the facility a “Vital Object” — placing it within a special jurisdiction in the Jakarta Metro Police.

Or at least, Jakarta International School was probably all that until about ago. The news broke that one of the students in the kindergarten was sexually abused at school. It took about a week and a lazy news cycle for the rest of the country to catch up, and yours truly caught the gory details from the said ILC broadcast last night.

The victim is a 6 year old male student attending his full time education at JIS. His mother appeared on telly and told us what happen. Mind you, this isn’t going to sound nice however way I try to put it. The kid was lead to the bathroom, located some distance away from the classroom, and gang-raped by multiple janitors and/or school staff on multiple occasions.

So far, the police have identified two or three suspects and claimed to have interviewed a dozen more or so, but it was clear that this wasn’t the conduct of a single sicko. The mother also described hearing from other parents about past incidents, strongly suggesting that not only that the group have been doing it regularly, but they also had been doing it for quite some time. The mother decided to take the boy to an off campus medical facility and discovered her son had Herpes.

How, you ask, could such thing happen? On school ground, during school hours, repeatedly and regularly involving multiple perpetrators, and not one person noticed? Despite all the appearance, this is a kindergarten and not a prison where such things might pass for common occurrence.

What really ticks me off however, even after this case now officially becomes a national matter, Jakarta International School still insists for all practical matters, that they were to be absolved on responsibility. The school intimidated the victim’s parents and convinced them to wait a week or more prior to filing a police complaint, urging the parents to keep things quiet and ‘within the community’. Following the ongoing thread on expat.or.id — a popular online forum for expat parents in Jakarta — you get the similar sense of denial and explicit tone to keep things quiet. They demanded the parents wait for a month, until the end of the holiday before filing a police report. When the parents went ahead to file a criminal complaint, the school reps simply followed them around and put the complex on lockdown.

The way it looks to public at large, JIS isn’t even pretending to be embarrassed responsible for the incident. The perpetrators belong to an outsourced agency, and their contract was duly terminated. The toilet facility was removed and rebuilt and the crime scene basically scrubbed clean, but they will now probably install more cameras. They didn’t have any license to operate a kindergarten, but they been doing it for decades, they said. During the talk show, the lawyers for the school sat on the same table with the family representative of the perpetrators and they took turn giving their side of the story.

How is it that a kindergarten teacher never realized that one (and probably more) of their students were being repeatedly gang-raped in the toilet during school hours? The teacher — the one in classes during the time of those incidents must be held accountable, whatever his or her qualification is.

To be frank, I’m shocked. Stunned. Astonished. Not sure, I’m lost for words. I don’t even have kids but just the idea that this kinda thing happens could happen in JIS is hard to believe. The school board has reps from the British, Australian and the American Embassy (though it is not a diplomatic mission and thus not considered a sovereign ground), by their own admission, the ambassadorial representatives are directly involved in hiring the school personnel. By Indonesian Law, the headmaster and the operator of the school could also be individually liable.

We all know how weak the law enforcement system in Indonesia is. Asked on the show last night about how the crime scene was tampered, the Indonesian Police General smiled coyly and said that they will revisit the toilet later. Another person in the talkshow mentioned cases recorded in 12 different provinces where students were sexually abused within school grounds. There is an alarming trend of sexual abuses and very little is being done about it. With most cases, they happen in some rural areas with minimum enforcement and oversight, these sorry numbers were reduced into mere statistics.

But you would’ve expect that now that this happen at Jakarta International School and some more people with a little more common sense and a shadow better of common decency would care more. If an International School in Sydney or LA or London were to experience such horrible abuse, undoubtedly the whole nation’s social and political infrastructure would come crushing down for a worldwide media circus demanding public beheading of everyone from ministries to class teachers. Some things will get done to stop it from ever happening again.

Except that when it happens in Jakarta, the very same set of people merely try to do their best to pretend like this never happened.