Case Study: The Problem with Jakarta International School’s (JIS) Saga

By N Mark Castro

indonesia-canada-education-crime-children-files_r_44367195

Every crime has a narrative: guilty, not guilty, stupid, logical … it all comes with a story.

And now the two teachers — Neil Bantleman and Ferdinan Michael Tjong — from Canada and Indonesia, respectively — are in custody of the Jakarta Police.

The problem with this story is how everyone bungled up the entire incident.

Let’s look at the first report filed against Jakarta International School (JIS) on sexual abuse:

If you will look at the timeline, it took JIS almost forever to publicly address the issue. The sniff of the allegations should have triggered an immediate response to invite stakeholders, media, and the public. Highlight the separation of the cleaners and the school (this they did but it was late).

jktI’m not saying that JIS should not be held liable. A modicum of liability can become evident depending on the lawyer representing the aggrieved child/parent. However, as soon as JIS became dependent on the narrative of the accuser, there went the ballgame.

Hence, a second child/parent came forward with similar accusation.

Despite their initial cooperation, headed by JIS head Tim Carr, the entire narrative became all the more absurd when Tim himself was accused of being a pedophile; baseless charges, of course, but to come directly from the Education and Culture Ministry director general of non-formal and informal early childhood education (PAUDNI), Lydia Freyani Hawadi, establishes the story even further.

Worse, Tim Carr and JIS did barely nothing but just to reject such accusation.

WHAT COULD HE / JIS HAVE DONE?

1. Hire a DIRT-JOB expert – as in most international schools, I would like to assume that JIS had its own communications representative to address the media. Or they could have engaged the services of a PR expert. Unfortunately, this is not what you need in a crisis like this. The second or third day that the news came out without JIS owning the narrative, they should’ve fired the PR expert right away.

What would a PR / Crisis Management expert do?

  • Beg the press
  • Prepare a media kit
  • Ensure the image
  • Study the facts / issues
  • Weigh the pros and cons
  • Keep quiet

Fire their collective butts right away and hire a dirt-job expert.

What would a Dirt Job expert do?

First of all, admitting that this issue would get dirty is the first step. The more dirt you could possibly think of, the better you are in preparing yourself for what’s coming. A dirt job expert would anticipate this. Further, the expert would work with an investigator to find all the dirt behind all parties involved. If you are liable and vulnerable, you can begin your defense — both legally and in public.

Remember, this is not about right or wrong. This is about taking the necessary steps to ensure your protection. At this stage you still want to find the truth without the narrative being dragged left and right. And the dirt-job expert would come in handy to:

  • Work with an investigator to determine the reason behind the accusations
  • Determine the extent of liability
  • Find all information that can be used against the parties (collusion between the police if there are any, misplaced passion for the accusers, motives)
  • Anticipate the accusations and left-field allegations (create an outline of expected outcomes: dirt job from the accusers, misplaced allegations that can be corrected by the narrative, integrity of the investigation)

There’s a lot more, of course, that can be done but it’s a first step towards determining and protecting the truth.

2. Counter-Op – hold a press conference, no holds-barred media blitz, intensive blog campaign, community outreach to parents and/or Parents’ Teachers’ Association (PTA), engage a unified front with other international schools, get alumni to be involved in a concerted effort of support.

3. File a lawsuit – it doesn’t matter whether or not Tim Carr / JIS wins the case, the point is you get to own the narrative and confront a ministry official who has erred with her baseless accusations and to show the police that JIS is serious in determining the truth.

4. Hire a lawyer / investigator – I’m not sure at which point JIS decided to engage the services of flamboyant and successful lawyer Hotman Paris but certainly they could’ve geared the narrative into finding the characters of the accusers. Remember, at this point, there was no legal case filed yet, which would have been the perfect time to establish further the narrative.

Since JIS failed to establish the narrative early on, the allegations have now snowballed to include other teachers. With the ballooning effect of the allegations are the equally growing financial compensation demanded by the accusers: $ 125 million, to be exact.

SUFFER THE CHILDREN

child-sexual-abuse-1_111111040802The $125 Million Dollar Question

The real victims here, of course, are the child/children that continue to be raped by those involved … and that’s the most disgusting part. Lost in the translation are the initial suspects that are languishing in jail waiting for justice to be applied. Muddling the issue are the two newly accused teachers with no legal basis to stand on.

Cinta Trisulo, a lawyer with the OC Kaligis law firm who accompanied the six-year-old plaintiff, said her client had been repeatedly sexually assaulted because JIS and the ministry had failed to protect him and he, therefore, was demanding $25 million in material losses and $100 million in nonmaterial losses.

Indeed, there’s much to be said about the child suffering from sexually-transmitted diseases (STD/Herpes) and the next step is to determine who are the real criminals and to what extent is the school liable. But to suddenly find yourself now from being cooperative witnesses to becoming the accused shows how easily the narrative can be changed if you don’t own it.

Amidst all these farcical allegations and bungled up investigations are the children suffering from the incompetence of the adults. And that is the worst crime committed against them, repeatedly.

And all because of a narrative.

 

About Asmartrock

N. Mark Castro is the chief political communications strategist for PT AsiaLeads, a political and communications policy-making body based in Jakarta, Indonesia. He is also the Executive Director at the Southeast Asia Consulting Group, an investment advisory company assisting clients roll out their presence for the ASEAN Economic Integration in partnership with government. The views posted here are his own and do not in any way reflect the views of the companies he represents.

Posted on July 16, 2014, in Fatherhood, General, Politics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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