MPs ask about support from school for students

MPs yesterday asked Acting Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng about the support given by schools when students assist in police investigations. Here are the key points:

• Mr Ang Wei Neng (Jurong GRC) wanted to know if schools can start having staff accompany students to the police station for interviews. Mr Ng said that, with the review of police procedures still under way, "it is premature to position one way or the other". If the review recommends that an appropriate adult should be present, the Ministry of Education (MOE) will consider taking it up.

• Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) Dennis Tan asked if principals have the discretion to not release students to the police for questioning. Mr Ng said principals do not have such discretion. The police decide where and when the interview will take place.

• Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) wanted to know if schools have measures to help students fit back into school once investigations are over. Mr Ng said the "balance between confidentiality and rehabilitation is a very delicate one", but trained school counsellors are able to contextualise their counselling according to the student's needs.

• NCMP Daniel Goh asked if school counsellors are trained to do psychological assessments of suicide risks. Mr Ng said they are trained to do basic assessments. Beyond that, they will refer students to an external psychiatrist or psychologist.

• Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC) wanted to know if the school counsellor could have met Benjamin Lim's family to discuss the school camp, instead of doing it over the phone. Mr Ng said it was not unreasonable for the counsellor to call, but "we can always do better".

• NCMP Leon Perera asked if there are measures to provide students with aftercare, such as a helpline, when police investigations are ongoing. Mr Ng said counsellors will render support to the student and parents. The MOE will look into Mr Perera's suggestion of providing such aftercare, he added.

Pearl Lee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2016, with the headline 'MPs ask about support from school for students'. Print Edition | Subscribe