The League of Schools How Russia responded to Meduza’s investigation on sexual harassment at a Moscow school
On January 23, 2017, Meduza published Daniil Turovsky’s investigative piece on how the administrators of a small Moscow school “The League of Schools” have been sexually molesting female students on a regular basis over the course of 20 years. This information was related by many alumni and former employees of the institution. In the 24 hours since its publication, the piece has attracted the attention of the Investigative Committee and Russia’s Ministry of Education. Below, Meduza provides an update on the League of School investigation.
Russia’s Investigation Committee has initiated pre-investigative procedures to verify the information published in Meduza’s investigation. Based on its findings, the committee will decide whether to initiate a criminal case.
On January 24, Federation Council member Elena Mizulina announced that she intends to submit a bill to the State Duma to toughen penalties for parents and teachers who take advantage of their positions to seduce children. Mizulina previously made this proposal in 2012, but the bill was rejected then. “It is necessary to await the results of pre-investigation checks,” said Mizulina. “If the facts are confirmed, the sentence it will be very serious in any case. After all, we are talking about a group of children here.”
Russian’s Minister of Education and Science Olga Vasilyeva also speak out about The League of Schools situation. “When there is evidence proving these people’s guilt, then we will look into whether they [had been convicted in the past], how they ended up working at the school, [etc.]. These cases [of sexual abuse] have never been and never will be widespread. This is simply [impossible].”
Russia’s federal television channels, amongst them Rossiya, Moscow 24, and Ren-TV, all reported on the story. Publication Life reported that a sign with the words The League of Schools had been removed from a fence surrounding the school’s former building.
The school’s deputy headmaster Nikolay Izyumov, whom graduates accused of sexual harassment, has denied all allegations against him. In an interview with Moskovsky Komsomolets, he said: “The [female] students kissed me themselves.”
“No girl from her final year of studies could accuse me of harassment, because there was none,” wrote Izyumov on his Facebook page. “They have no need for such charges. Only aunties need such charges years after the face.” He called the graduates “people with sick souls,” but said that he was not going to file a lawsuit to protect his honor and dignity, as, according to Izyumov, he was dissuaded from doing so by his lawyer.
Graduates of the schools are discussing the investigation on social networks. In one of threads, they argued that the publication of this information serves as “a Pandora’s box for all [the people] this has something to do with.”
Yevgenia Semina, a former student, wrote on her Facebook page that “a few kisses in an office did not traumatize [her], but instead gave her confidence in her maiden irresistibility.” She continued: “I remember that I was most worried about that fact that [Izyumov], it turns out, care[d] for other girls in addition to me. I am reading my diary [entries] from that time and see that my worries were [similar to those that I would feel for] a peer. He sent me a Valentine’s Day card, came and visited me when I was sick. A first kiss. Wow.”
In an interview with television station Dozhd, Yevgeniya Semina said that at “13 years old, [she] thought that [her interaction with Izyumov] to be a relationship” and called the teacher her “beloved fan [and] boyfriend.”
School principal Sergei Bebchuk has yet to comment on Meduza’s investigation.