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LCQ9: Teachers and teaching staff committing criminal offences
     Following is a question by the Hon Tang Fei and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Dr Choi Yuk-lin, in the Legislative Council today (March 29):
     There are views pointing out that teachers are role models for students, and their words and deeds, conduct and values have a profound impact on students. Since the occurrence of the social incidents of disturbances arising from the opposition to the proposed legislative amendments in 2019, the professional conduct and behaviour of teachers and teaching staff are of concern to society, and the situation of teachers and teaching staff committing criminal offences has even aroused heated discussions. Regarding the follow-up actions taken against teachers and teaching staff who have committed criminal offences, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective numbers of teachers and teaching staff who were arrested, prosecuted and convicted for committing criminal offences in each of the past five years and since January this year, with a breakdown by type of offence;
(2) among the cases mentioned in (1), of the respective numbers of those which are pending trial, under trial and being followed up by other means; and
(3) regarding the teachers and teaching staff involved in the cases mentioned in (1), (i) what disciplinary actions were taken by the schools and the Education Bureau (EDB) and (ii) how the schools and the EDB dealt with the teaching posts or the posts concerned (i.e. arranging for staff to fill them or letting them be lost through natural wastage)?
     The Education Bureau (EDB) attaches great importance to the professional conduct of teachers. We have been administering a strict and effective teacher registration mechanism to ensure that all teachers allowed to teach in schools are fit and proper persons. For teachers who are suspected of involving in illegal acts, we will definitely follow up the matter seriously. If a teacher is found to have committed any serious offence, acts of immorality or professional misconduct, the EDB will cancel his or her teacher registration. A teacher who has his or her teacher registration cancelled is not allowed to teach in any schools (including tutorial schools) or to enter or remain in any schools, so as to safeguard the well-being of students.
     Our consolidated reply to the Hon Tang Fei's question is as follows:
     Under the established mechanism, if teachers are suspected of involving in criminal offences, the EDB will, after conclusion of the cases and completion of appeals, prudently examine all relevant information of each case, including the information provided by the teacher to the court and the judgement of the court, and consider the appropriate follow-up actions to be taken from the perspective of teaching professionalism. If a teacher is found to have committed an act of immorality or professional misconduct, even though the case is eventually not convicted because of various reasons, we will still handle the case seriously, including consideration of cancelling his or her teacher registration, or issuing a reprimand, a warning, an advisory letter or a verbal reminder. Therefore, we do not classify the cases by whether they are pending trial, under trial or being followed up by other means.
     Follow-up actions taken against teachers who were convicted of criminal offences by the EDB in the past five years (i.e. 2018 to 2022) are tabulated as follows:
  2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Cancellation of teacher registration 0 3 3 5 14
Reprimand letter 0 0 0 2 0
Written warning 7 17 9 11 12
Written advice 1 1 0 0 0
Verbal reminder issued/recorded 2 3 5 0 4
     For all the above cases involving serious offences such as sex-related crime, fraud, criminal damage and misconduct in public office, the teacher registrations of the teachers concerned were cancelled. In respect of less serious offences such as careless driving and teaching in an unregistered tutorial school, depending on the severity of the cases, we issued reprimand letters, written warnings, written advice or verbal reminders to the teachers concerned, or recorded the cases, which would be taken into account should the teachers concerned commit any offences or acts of professional misconduct in the future. As many of the cases were complicated or involved multiple charges, we do not have a breakdown by type of offence. Neither do we have relevant statistics on teachers arrested, prosecuted or convicted.
     Schools, as employers of teachers, have the responsibility to supervise their teachers and remind them of the behaviour and conduct required. According to the School Administration Guide, in the event that criminal proceedings are instituted against a teacher, regardless of whether the offence is duty-related, the teacher concerned is obliged to report the proceedings to the school. Besides, schools should report all suspected serious offence or misconduct cases involving their teachers to the EDB, so that follow-up action can be taken concerning their teacher registration.
     If a teacher is found to have committed an act of professional misconduct or have misbehaved, the school should take disciplinary action while complying with the relevant provisions in the Employment Ordinance and the terms of the employment contract signed with the teacher concerned. Aided schools should also make reference to the Codes of Aid when taking appropriate disciplinary action as the circumstances may require, including issuing a verbal or written warning, withholding annual increment, suspending the teacher from normal duties, reduction in rank, dismissal and summary dismissal. As for government schools, the EDB will impose punishment in accordance with the mechanisms on disciplinary action stipulated in the Civil Service Regulations and the Public Service (Administration) Order, including verbal or written warning, reprimand, severe reprimand, imposing a fine, reduction in rank, reduction in salary, compulsory retirement and dismissal. In the cases of resignation, dismissal or cancellation of registration of the teachers concerned, schools may fill the teaching vacancies according to the existing staff recruitment procedures.
Ends/Wednesday, March 29, 2023
Issued at HKT 11:30
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