Art teacher found guilty of molesting Secondary 2 boy

SINGAPORE - There were other students around, but their presence did not stop an art teacher from molesting one of his male students.

A district court heard on Monday (July 16) that the teacher, now 38, squeezed the right side of the Secondary 2 student's chest and told the 13-year-old boy that he resembled a Japanese pornographic comic character. The man also touched the boy's groin and buttock later that afternoon.

After a nine-day trial, District Judge John Ng found the teacher guilty of three counts of molestation. The man, who taught in a school in the western part of Singapore, cannot be named due to a gag order to protect the boy's identity.

In her submissions, Deputy Public Prosecutor Amanda Chong said that on Feb 17, 2016, the boy was in the school's Art Studio 1 to work on a sculpture.

Sometime after 3pm, the teacher walked over to the boy's table and molested him. At the time, there were other students seated nearby.

Said DPP Chong: "The victim felt uncomfortable as a result of the accused's touching... He wanted to complete the sculpture and go home at the earliest moment possible. He therefore shrugged it off."

After molesting the boy, the teacher went to the Higher Art Room nearby. At around 4pm to 5pm, the boy carried his sculpture into this room to ask for the teacher's guidance.

The man started asking him questions on sensitive topics and said his student's leg hair was "very sexy". He then molested the boy two more times.

Shocked, the teenager did not say anything but used his hand to try and push the teacher's hand away.

The court heard that as the boy walked out of the Higher Art Room, the man asked him: "Why? Too shy?"

When the boy reached home, he told his mother about what happened and she called his form teacher, who alerted the school's management.

The school principal testified in court that she and vice-principal met the art teacher the next day. She said he appeared "shocked and remorseful" and also told her "he knew he was overboard".

During the trial, the boy told the court that he is now more wary of other people, especially teachers, and did not like art as much as before due to the "bad memories" involving the teacher.

DPP Chong said: "He expressed that he was very uncomfortable when in a room with only a teacher as he was concerned the incident may repeat itself."

The court heard during the trial that the man denied molesting the teenager.

The art teacher is represented by lawyers Shashi Nathan, Tania Chin and Marianne Chew. In their closing submissions, they urged Judge Ng to acquit their client.

They added: "There is no reason for (the art teacher) to have risked his livelihood and reputation by committing the charges against him and to essentially lose everything in the process."

The man is out on bail of $15,000 and will be back in court on Aug 14. For each count of molestation, he can be jailed for up to five years and fined or caned.

A Ministry of Education (MOE) spokesman said in response to queries from The Straits Times on Monday that the ministry will be taking disciplinary action against the man, who has been suspended from duty since February 2016.

"MOE takes a serious view of educator misconduct. Educators who fail to comply with our standards of conduct and discipline will be subjected to disciplinary action. In serious cases, they may be dismissed from the service," the spokesman added.