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The Straits Times
Oct 27, 2022
A former teacher-in-charge of a co-curricular activity (CCA) in a school admitted to molesting 13 boys over a span of three years in places including the school in central Singapore and a chalet.
He touched the boys’ private parts as well as kissed them, among other offences. The victims were in the CCA the man was in charge of.
The boys were 13 to 15 years old when the offences took place between 2015 and 2018.
On Thursday, the man, 39, pleaded guilty to six charges, including harassment and committing an indecent act against a young person. Twenty-three other charges were taken into consideration.
Details about the man, the victims and the school cannot be disclosed due to a gag order to protect the boys’ identities.
In late 2015, the man molested a 13-year-old boy at a chalet during an informal overnight retreat for the CCA.
The boy had fallen asleep on a couch, but woke up to find himself on a bed and the man touching his private parts. He was too afraid to react and pretended to sleep while the act continued for 10 to 15 minutes. The boy got up only after the man fell asleep.
The man also committed an offence under the Children and Young Persons Act against the same boy in school between 2016 and 2017 by demanding the youngster kiss him on the lips.
Although the boy was reluctant, he felt pressured by the teacher-in-charge and agreed to do so.
Deputy Public Prosecutors Lee Zu Zhao and Tan Hsiao Tien said that the boy felt disgusted and extremely uncomfortable but kept silent because he did not know how to react.
They said: “He felt helpless and did not know who he could approach for help. He did not confide in his close friends or family because he did not know how to explain the situation and was unsure of how they would react.”
Feeling extremely stressed about the incident, the boy called the helpline of the Association of Women for Action and Research’s sexual assault care centre and told them he had been molested by the man since Secondary 1.
However, when a case manager from the centre tried to contact the boy to follow up, he did not respond because he was afraid.
The CCA had a clubroom in the school, which the boys used for their activities.
While serving as teacher-in-charge, the man treated the room as his “personal staff room” and based himself at a desk there. The room, referred to as “the lab”, was where most of the offences took place.
The blinds in the room were always closed on his instructions and the boys were not allowed to enter the room without his permission.
He would remind the boys, “whatever happens in the... lab stays in the... lab”.
When he was in the room with the boys, the man would call the victims over to his desk to talk and then touch them inappropriately. He would also go over to the victims while they were working and touch them.
In one instance, he asked his victim if he felt “comfortable” after touching the boy’s private parts.
DPP Lee and Tan said: “The accused created an environment where inappropriate touching by him was normalised on the pretext of him acting affectionately in a brotherly or playful manner.”
Although the man was not the only teacher-in-charge of the CCA, the other teachers rarely visited the clubroom and left him in charge of daily operations.
Four other victims were molested in the room between 2017 and 2018. The man touched the boys’ private parts and exposed himself to one of them.
The offences came to light after one of the CCA members told his mother in October 2018 that he had witnessed the teacher-in-charge touching and kissing some of his schoolmates. The woman lodged a police report in the same month.
The Ministry of Education said that the man left the teaching service in November 2018.
MOE said in its statement that it takes a serious view of staff misconduct and will not hesitate to take disciplinary action against those who fail to adhere to its standards of conduct and discipline.
The man is expected to return to court for a pre-trial conference on Nov 29. District Judge Prem Raj also ordered the man to undergo a psychiatric assessment at the Institute of Mental Health.
For each count of molesting a child below 14 years old, an offender can be jailed for up to five years and fined or caned.
For harassment, an offender can be fined up to $5,000.