SINGAPORE — A principal who molested seven secondary school boys with disciplinary issues was sentenced to three years, eight months’ jail and seven strokes of the cane on Tuesday (17 November).
The 48-year-old man would invite them into his office to discuss disciplinary matters and during that time, pinch their genitals.
He got away with his actions against the boys, aged 12 to 15, until the victims confided in each other and later reported the matter to the school’s Operations Manager on 25 October 2017.
Seeking a jail term of four years and seven strokes for the Singaporean man, the prosecution told the court, “School principals are placed in a position of tremendous power and authority over the students under their charge.”
“Conversely, parents place immense trust in their child’s principal when they enrol their child in the school, not only to ensure their child receives a proper education but also to ensure their child remains in a safe environment whilst at school. Principals are thus expected to maintain the utmost level of care and responsibility towards the students under their charge,” said Deputy Public Prosecutors Sruthi Boppana and Mark Yeo.
However, the man betrayed that trust when he preyed on his students between August and October 2017.
The man previously pleaded guilty to one charge each of molesting three boys, two of whom were below 14 years of age. Another eight charges involving four other boys were taken into consideration for sentencing.
All the victims, and the principal, as well as the school, cannot be named in order to protect the victims’ identities.
The principal would target at-risk youths who faced family problems or had disciplinary records within or outside of school. They were often called by the school’s Operations Manager to the General Office to serve their detention, be counselled or informed of disciplinary action.
Not only were the victims vulnerable due to their position vis-à-vis their principal, they were also at risk of being suspended or expelled from the school, and were thus “uniquely vulnerable” to the man as the principal had “considerable power over their educational future”, said the prosecution.
Whenever the principal noticed a student at the Operations Manager’s desk, he would call the student into his room for a private chat. At times, the principal would also inform the students’ teachers of his intention to speak to them and fix a time to meet them at his office – supposedly to discuss disciplinary issues.
Behind closed doors
During their private meetings, the principal would have the student sit with his back towards the closed door, which had a glass panel on it. He did so to ensure that anyone looking through the glass panel would not be able to see what was happening, according to the prosecution.
While conversing with them, the principal would begin touching their limbs and progress to poking or pinching their groin. He would also rub their chests over their shirts and insert his hand into their shorts to touch their genitals.
The prosecution pointed out that the man had shown a “clear degree of premeditation” by identifying and isolating students who had multiple disciplinary issues in his office before he sexually assaulted them.
One victim, then 14, told the principal that he was uncomfortable with the acts and was told to return to class. The victim was hesitant to report the matter as he felt that the principal had “helped him significantly when he was in Secondary 1” as the man had allowed him to be promoted to the next year despite him not scoring the required grades. The boy felt that he could not betray the man. He only revealed the molest during investigations.
The principal told another victim that he might end up in Boys’ Town, and pinched the boy’s genitals while chiding him for being involved in a rioting matter. The boy eventually made excuses to escape the room.
One boy did not disclose the molest as he was afraid no one would believe him, given his disciplinary issues.
After the offence came to light through two of the victims, internal investigations were conducted and the matter reported to the Ministry of Education. A police report was lodged on 6 November 2017. Incidents against another five victims then surfaced.
For molesting a person under 14, the man could have been jailed up to five years, or fined, or caned. For molest, he could have been jailed up to two years, with a fine or caning.
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