SINGAPORE — Under the pretext of discussing disciplinary matters with his male students, a secondary school principal pinched their genitals in his office.
The 48-year-old Singaporean got away with his actions against the boys, aged 12 to 15, until one victim confided in another victim. Both then reported the matter to the school’s Operations Manager on 25 October 2017 after realising they went through similar ordeals.
The principal pleaded guilty on Friday (28 August) to three charges of molesting three boys, two of whom were below 14 years of age, with the remaining eight charges taken into consideration for sentencing.
All the victims, and the principal, as well as the school, cannot be named to protect the victims’ identities.
The court heard that the victims whom the principal targetted were 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.
The offences occurred between August and October 2017.
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.
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. 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.
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.
The principal is expected to be sentenced on 6 October. His lawyer informed the court that his client has a medical appointment to assess a spinal condition, which may affect whether he receives caning.
For molesting a person under 14, the principal may be jailed up to five years, or fined, or caned. For molest, he faces a jail term of up to two years, with fine or caning.
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