Letter of the day

Forum: Teach students to protect themselves against sex offenders

A teacher interacting with students during a Character, Citizenship and Education (CCE) class in Tampines Secondary School. PHOTO: ST FILE

It is not just the National University of Singapore that must do more to provide a safe environment for students (NUS must do more to provide safe environment for students, Dec 4), but also every school in Singapore, from pre-schools and junior colleges to the Institute of Technical Education and polytechnics.

Recently, there have been disturbing stories of educators sexually harassing or assaulting students (Ex-principal pleads guilty to molesting three boys at his school, Aug 29; Ex-teacher admits performing indecent acts on 2 girls aged 15, Nov 25; and Primary school V-P who sexually exploited boy gets 10 years' jail, Oct 17, 2019).

It can take years for victims of sexual harassment or assault to recover and move on with their lives. Some may not be able to move on.

Can we do more to protect our young? By the time the Ministry of Education (MOE) steps in to take disciplinary action, serious harm would have already been inflicted on the students.

Can we adopt more proactive practices?

I believe one of the reasons why our students fall victim to sexual offences committed by educators is the notion that educators are supposed to be helping students in their education journey, and are seen as trustworthy.

If MOE finds it challenging to sieve out high-risk educators during the hiring process, then we should adopt the approach of teaching students to protect themselves.

Teach students the areas of their bodies that should not be touched by anyone, including people in positions of authority such as principals.

Educate students that they should not agree to meet any educator alone, even in a school environment.

Inculcate courage in our students. Teach them to voice out and to fight back when they identify imminent danger. This knowledge will also be helpful when they become adults and enter the workforce.

Shirley Woon

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2020, with the headline Forum: Teach students to protect themselves against sex offenders. Subscribe