SINGAPORE: Schools in Singapore have the obligation to cooperate with the police and "not stand in the way of law", but will seek to ensure the well-being of its students if they assist with police investigations, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said on Tuesday (Feb 2).
The ministry said this in response to media queries about the case of a 14-year-old boy who was found dead at the foot of the block of his family flat in Yishun after being questioned by the police over a case of alleged molest.
An MOE spokesperson said schools have a set of guidelines "which corresponds to the police's guidelines on working with minors".
"This includes ascertaining the identities of the police officers who approach our schools," MOE said. It explained that the school would speak to its student before the police speaks with him or her.
"The student’s parent or appointed guardian is also contacted before the student leaves with the police to assist in investigations. We will also ensure that our student is not hungry and has something to eat before leaving with the police," MOE said.
The Education Ministry added that its schools will keep the student's identity and the nature of the case strictly confidential to protect the student's privacy and dignity.
"While the student is assisting in police investigations, the school will continue to keep in contact with the student and the parent/guardian to render the necessary support," MOE said, adding that underpinning these guidelines is the ministry's belief that schools have a duty of care to its students, regardless of the circumstances they are in.
MOE's statement comes a day after the Singapore Police Force (SPF) said it is reviewing its procedure to see whether it should allow an appropriate adult to be present when a young person is interviewed.
The mother of the boy has said she was denied access to her son at the police station. SPF has said they had contacted her to inform her of investigations before he was brought to the Ang Mo Kio Police Division and that he was fully cooperative during the interview and showed no signs of being unduly distressed.
SCHOOL "STROVE TO GIVE STUDENT EMOTIONAL SUPPORT"
In response to media queries, the school that the boy was enrolled in said it was "deeply saddened" by his death. "He was a good student who was well-liked by staff and schoolmates," the school said in the statement.
It added that his well-being was a priority throughout the incident. "When the plainclothes police officers came to the school, we were discreet in bringing the student to the office to meet with the police," it said.
"Before he was taken to the police station, both police and the student spoke to the parent over the phone," it said, adding that the principal also ensured that he had eaten first. The student left with the police in an unmarked car, at a time when the other students were in class, the school added.
"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," it said. "The school kept in contact with his parent to check on his well-being."
As for why the boy was withdrawn from a 3-day school camp, it said: "The school and his parent agreed it was more important that he could stay close to his parents, who can better support him during the stressful period, rather than be at camp, away from home."
"The school is now focused on supporting the family and school community. We are in contact with his family to address any concerns that they may have and continue to support them," it added.