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LCQ9: Create a safe learning environment for students

     Following is a question by the Hon Lau Wong-fat and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (May 11):


     Given that from time to time in recent years, there were cases of primary and secondary school teachers sexually assaulting their students, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the Education Bureau ("the Bureau") has provided primary and secondary schools with guidelines on preventing cases of teachers sexually assaulting students; if so, of the contents of the guidelines; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) whether the Bureau has studied why from time to time in recent years, there were cases of teachers sexually assaulting their students; and

(c) whether the authorities will consider adopting new measures to enhance the protection of students against the threat of being sexually assaulted by their teachers?



     All along, the Government has been very concerned about sexual offence cases in which children are the victims, and the Police are also committed to combating these crimes.  In this regard, the Education Bureau (EDB) has been working closely with schools to monitor the registration and appointment of teachers respectively to create a safe learning environment for students so as to safeguard their well-being.  Furthermore, guidelines are issued to schools and curricula updated on a need basis to enhance the knowledge of students and teachers in this area.

     The reply to the three parts of the question is as follows:

(a) To prevent students from being sexually assaulted, the EDB has issued guidelines to schools requiring them to enhance students' knowledge and skills of self-protection through activities such as life skills training courses and sex education.  Currently, sex education, including topics on sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexual violence, is covered in different Key Learning Areas and subjects of the primary and secondary curricula (e.g. General Studies for Primary Schools, Science and Integrated Humanities for secondary schools, Moral and Civic Education for primary and secondary schools, etc.).  Through teaching activities, students learn how to protect their bodies, say no when they feel offended and seek help when they run into trouble.

     In addition, the EDB has also issued circulars to schools on handling child abuse, requesting them to pay attention to students' well-being and safety, and providing guidelines on the procedures for handling child sexual abuse cases involving their staff.  In brief, whenever a case arises, the school should consult, as soon as possible, the Family and Child Protective Services Unit of the Social Welfare Department or the responsible Police unit, and make reference to the assessment of the caseworker concerned (e.g. School Social Worker / Student Guidance Officer / Student Guidance Teacher / Student Guidance Personnel) in providing appropriate support for the student concerned and taking follow-up actions.  Schools should also strengthen the skills of their staff in identifying and handling student sexual abuse cases, with a view to referring the cases to appropriate professionals for counselling services as early as possible.

(b) All along, the EDB has been closely following up cases involving offences and acts of misconduct committed by teachers (including sexual offences).  If a teacher is convicted of a criminal offence, the EDB will ask for all relevant documents (including court judgements and records) to gain a full understanding of the case, and consider the teacher's registration status in the light of the nature and gravity of the offence.  However, we do not have information in hand to systematically analyse whether the reasons for a teacher committing a sexual offence are different in nature from those of a sex offender in other trade.

(c) The EDB attaches great importance to the professional conduct of teachers and handles teacher registration in a prudent manner.  We will refuse to register an applicant as a teacher or cancel the teacher registration if he / she has committed a serious offence or acts of misconduct (e.g. committing a sexual offence in which a child or his / her student is the victim).  To safeguard the well-being of students and to address the concerns of the community and the education sector, the EDB has stepped up its efforts in vetting and monitoring the registration status of teachers to ensure that a teacher who has committed serious professional misconduct is not allowed to teach in schools.

     While the EDB handles teacher registration prudently, schools should also strictly monitor the appointment of teachers.  Although the appointment of teachers is a matter of school-based management, all along the EBD has issued guidelines to schools, advising them to avoid appointing improper persons as teachers as they may jeopardise studentsˇ¦ safety.  To further safeguard the well-being of students, the EDB announced in May 2010 a package of enhanced measures on appointment matters, specifying that schools should strengthen their vetting procedures in handling appointment matters and suggesting that schools should require applicants to declare their conviction records and provide relevant details.  In addition, schools should require teachers to report any criminal proceedings instituted against them, and should themselves report serious cases to the EDB.

     Moreover, the EDB will work closely with the relevant department on the implementation of the scheme for sexual conviction record check recommended by the Law Reform Commission.  The scheme would enable employers (including schools), when engaging persons to undertake child-related work and work relating to mentally incapacitated persons (MIPs), to check the conviction records for sexual offences of applicants subject to the voluntary participation and consent of the applicants, so as to reduce the risk of sexual assault to children and MIPs.

Ends/Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Issued at HKT 13:02


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