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LTV receives reports about sexual harassment at music schools

After Latvian Television (LTV) called for reports of sexual violations at school, university, or similar establishments, it has received anonymous complaints about several music schools, LTV reported on March 21.

"A vicious cycle and helplessness", writes the mother of a 14-year-old girl's friend anonymously to LTV about the harassment by a particular teacher at a music school near Rīga, specifically by touching and making inappropriate comments on a regular basis. The girl is very shy. What to do? LTV will not mention the teacher's name. The school refused to talk to LTV, denying that there were any such precedents.

LTV has also received information about other schools, but for the time being no teacher's name will be publicly mentioned.

Following the criminal proceedings initiated against the Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music, this week on LTV's "One to One" program the rector of the academy, Gunārs Prānis, was asked: "How do you feel about the music industry in general? You yourself studied at the Emīls Dārziņš Special Music School, now called the Riga Doma Choir School. Is everything okay there?"

"If you talk about this psychological, ethical aspect, I am absolutely convinced that the whole ecosystem should be rebooted and reviewed in this sense. Not only universities should review their codes of ethics, their models of conduct, but of course age-appropriately," said Prānis.

LTV went to several music high schools today to find out more. As there are also underage children, the liability for sexual harassment is much more serious. And it is important to understand: can it be reported in these schools and how? What should a minor do, and how can those who are shy be encouraged to speak up?

"I want to take this opportunity to appeal to young people - they must not be silent. That's the first thing. Find a confidant through whom you can give us at least the first information. And everyone should feel safe at any age. Without a doubt," said Gints Ceplenieks, head of the Rīga Doma Choir School. So far, there have been no such signals at the school, the headmaster says.

Children and young people at the Jāzeps Mediņš Riga Music Secondary School are also encouraged to turn first to an adult they trust. They can also do so anonymously. This school also denies that any such signals or precedents have taken place there.

"There are anonymous surveys. If there are so-called signals of a problem that would be acute enough to draw attention to it, then of course it should be done immediately. Even if it is anonymous. Even if it is at the level of rumors," said Ainars Šablovskis, Director of Jāzeps Mediņš Riga Music Secondary School.

Unwanted correspondence, physical harassment are clear signals. But what about physical touching? At the Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music, it has been said that special supervision is needed for individual consultations. Cameras, or rather glass doors, will be thought of. But there is also physical touch in the practice of playing musical instruments.

"For us to touch a child, if it is necessary in the learning process, we have to ask permission and it has to be with the child's consent. It must not be taken for granted. Children change. Youth is changing. Parents-to-be will change too," said Ceplenieks. "It is my conviction that in our times it is possible [to do pedagogical work differently], and I call on those who work to do the same - to find the means, because this kind of communication is not necessary. I believe there are many colleagues who would disagree. But I am absolutely convinced."

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