SINGAPORE: A secondary school teacher who sexually exploited her 15-year-old student during a "staycation" was sentenced to jail for two years and nine months on Monday (Jun 10).
The woman's relationship with the teen had not started out well as the boy did not do well in Mathematics, the subject she taught him, the court heard.
During a National Cadet Corps (NCC) camp while they were trekking up a mountain, she asked him why he hated her and he answered that he did not.
After the camp, the teacher continued to text her student and they grew closer, with the woman eventually telling him she "had feelings for him".
The woman started dating the boy and they went for movies, jogs and engaged in physical intimacy over the course of their nine-month relationship.
The court was told that the pair went for a "staycation" in Geylang where she made him perform sex acts on her and vice versa between Nov 28, 2016 and Dec 2, 2016.
The teen, who is 11 years younger than the teacher, lied to his mother that he was going for an NCC camp.
The woman, who is now 29, taught Mathematics and English at an unidentified school from 2014 and has since been suspended.
Both of them cannot be named as their identities are protected by gag orders issued by the court. They are no longer in a relationship, her lawyers said.
The boy's mother grew suspicious in late 2016 to early 2017 when she found letters folded into heart shapes among her son's belongings while cleaning the house.
The teacher had written the "love notes" to the teenager - one for each day that she was away on holiday, the court heard.
The teenager later asked his mother if she would consider marrying someone 11 years older than her. His mother felt that something was amiss, and she reported the matter to the school.
An investigation was opened by the school and the relationship was uncovered before it was reported to the police on Feb 15, 2017.
Police investigations revealed sexually explicit messages between the pair, including the teacher offering sex acts to the boy. Photos of the pair kissing were found in both their phones, along with a video of them.
The teacher, who came to court with her loved ones and stood in the dock with her head bowed, pleaded guilty on Monday to two charges of causing a minor to sexually penetrate her and another two of sexually exploiting a young person. Another five charges were taken into consideration during the sentencing.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Yvonne Poon asked for a jail term of at least two years and 10 months, saying that the abuse of trust by the teacher was a "very significant aggravating factor", as the teacher was "an educator entrusted with the teaching of a young and impressionable minor".
She said the education system, school, students and parents expected decorum but the woman breached those expectations, going to "the extreme of having a romantic and physical relationship" with the minor.
The teacher was in a position where she had "ready access to the victim", who had no reason to question her intentions, said the prosecutor.
"As the adult in this case, at no time at all had she checked her impulses ... and arrested the development of that illicit connection with the victim," said the prosecutor.
TEACHER DID NOT DECEIVE, INTIMIDATE OR PRESSURE VICTIM: DEFENCE
The teacher's defence lawyer, T M Sinnadurai, urged the court to "consider a lenient sentence", saying his client would "never be able to work in the education industry" in the future.
"The accused did not deceive the minor," he said. "She did not intimidate him into entering into such a relationship, she did not blackmail (and) she did not pressure the minor. It was all a mutual stand."
He referred to a medical report where a doctor opined that even though the teacher knew such a relationship was inappropriate, "she was not able to shake it off due to her weakness in being decisive and assertive".
"She had a weak nature to fight off, to shake it off, and she unfortunately continued," said Mr Sinnadurai.
"The relationship with this minor was for a period of nine months and it's not very long compared to (another case)."
He added that the victim was "not traumatised, physically or psychologically" and urged the court to consider that the teacher had taken steps to see a psychiatrist, which would help in her self-rehabilitation.
The prosecution pointed out that minors "are deemed unable to appreciate the complete gravity of their actions", and said the defence's arguments "trespassed into the realm of victim-blaming".
STIFF PUNISHMENT CALLED FOR: JUDGE
District Judge Christopher Tan said the factor that distinguished this case from other cases of sexual exploitation of a child or young person was the abuse of trust.
"Trust had been reposed in the accused not just by the students, but by the parents and the educational system," he said. "In embarking on this conduct with a student under her charge, the abuse of trust was significant."
He added that "a much stiffer punishment" was called for.
The judge allowed the teacher her request to defer her sentence for two weeks to spend time with her family and settle her bills. He also granted the prosecution's request for the love notes and mobile phone to be forfeited to the police for disposal.
For causing a minor to sexually penetrate her, with or without his consent, the teacher could have been jailed for up to 10 years, fined, or both. For sexually exploiting a young person, she could have been jailed for up to five years, fined a maximum of S$10,000, or both.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) said it takes a serious view of staff misconduct and will not hesitate to take disciplinary action against those who fail to adhere to conduct and disciplinary standards of conduct and discipline. MOE said the teacher has been suspended from duty since Feb 2017 and is no longer teaching in any school.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article said the woman was sentenced to a prison term of two years and three months. This is incorrect. She was sentenced to two years and nine months. We apologise for the error.