Death of 14-year-old: Schools must cooperate with police, but also have a duty of care to students, says MOE

Schools have a set of guidelines "which corresponds to the police's guidelines on working with minors", says the Ministry of Education. PHOTO: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS

SINGAPORE - While schools are obliged to cooperate with police, they also have a duty of care to their students if they are involved in police investigations, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said in a statement on Tuesday (Feb 2).

It came after a 14-year-old boy called Benjamin was found dead at the foot of his Housing Board block in Yishun, 90 minutes after being released from Ang Mo Kio Police Division. There, he had been questioned regarding an alleged molestation case.

The ministry has told The Straits Times that schools have a set of guidelines "which corresponds to the police's guidelines on working with minors".

It includes ascertaining the identities of officers who approach the schools, speaking to the student involved before the police and contacting the student's parent or guardian before the student leaves with the police.

"Our schools maintain the strictest confidentiality of the student's identity and the case, so as to protect our student's privacy and dignity," added the MOE spokesman.

"While the student is assisting in police investigations, the school will continue to keep in contact with the student and the parent or guardian to render the necessary support."

On Monday (Feb 1), the Singapore Police Force (SPF) said it will review its procedure on whether to allow an appropriate adult to be present when a young person is interviewed.

A spokesman for Benjamin's school confirmed that both he and the police had spoken to a parent before he was taken to the police station. The school principal also ensured that he had eaten his meal before that.

"His well-being has always been topmost in our minds," said the spokesman.

"We noted from the conversation that the parent would be going to the police station.

"Throughout the process, we were mindful that as a young student, he would be frightened and we strove to give him as much emotional support as possible."

The death of the boy has been classified as a case of unnatural death.

The school has said it is deeply saddened by the boy's death, noting that he was a good student who was well-liked by teachers and schoolmates. It is now focused on supporting the family and school community.

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