Teachers investigated for rape at prestigious Jakarta school

School community gathers in support: Ferdinant Tjiong (left) with his wife, Fransisca, and Neil Bantleman, with his wife Tracy. Photo: Michael Bachelard
School community gathers in support: Ferdinant Tjiong (left) with his wife, Fransisca, and Neil Bantleman, with his wife Tracy. Photo: Michael Bachelard
Jakarta International School. Photo: Supplied

Jakarta International School. Photo: Supplied

Sexual abuse allegations at a prestigious international school in Jakarta have now embroiled three teachers, two of whom were interviewed late on Monday by police as suspects, and faced the possibility of imprisonment.

The case, which has gripped Indonesia with its combination of alleged sexual abuse and a school attended by the children of expatriates and rich Indonesians, began in March when a five-year-old boy was allegedly raped by outsourced cleaning staff. The boy's family is suing the school for $US125 million ($133 million).

It has since ballooned to include the boy’s two best friends and the three faculty members at the Jakarta International School. It’s also led to the temporary deportation of 21 staff members over minor discrepancies in their immigration documents.

The primary school principal, Elsa Donohue, a US citizen, has faced questions and is expected to be summoned again this week as a “witness”, but Canadian  educator Neil Bantleman and Indonesian teacher’s assistant Ferdinant Tjiong were advised late last week that their status had changed from “witness” to “suspect”, which means they can be detained pending charges. Mr Bantleman does not teach at the school but develops education programs with teaching staff.

On Monday, the school community gathered in support of the three teachers, with the school principal and more than 100 staff members insisting the allegations were fanciful.

Both Mr Ferdinant (known as “Ferdi”) and Mr Bantleman say they did not know the children, nor their parents, before they faced allegations of rape, and had nothing to do with them.

They believe the children were shown yearbooks or staff picture galleries on the school website and encouraged to identify who had allegedly abused them.

They say the full allegations have not been explained to them by Indonesian police, despite long sessions of questioning.

However, a mother of one of the boys making the allegations said of the teachers' declarations of innocence: "Let the police and justice prove it".

Parents of the alleged victims appear to be saying that Ms Donohue helped drug the children in her office, or in Mr Bantleman’s office, that they were then tied up and raped, or moved to another area where they were raped. Ms Donohue, in some versions of the allegations, is alleged to have filmed the attacks.

The mother of one of the three children alleges this happened 20 times to her son during school hours.

However, school principal Tim Carr said this would practically be impossible since the school’s administrative offices have fully glass doors and walls and the upstairs room alleged to be one scene of the rapes is an open-plan staff lounge area.

Mr Bantleman and Mr Ferdinant were taken to the police station on Monday and told Fairfax Media they had packed bags for a stay.

“I’m dumbfounded by how this has got to this point. These are baseless allegations. I’ve just been assuming it would be a matter of time until the truth came out. I didn’t expect it to go this far,” Mr Bantleman said.

Mr Ferdinant said: “I’m not scared but I’m worried with my family, because I’m Indonesian. I have no powerful people with me. Neil has his embassy, Elsa has her embassy, and I only have my friends and my family.”

Disclosure: The author has two children attending the Jakarta International School.

This story Teachers investigated for rape at prestigious Jakarta school first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.