SINGAPORE: A teacher who molested seven boys enrolled in the co-curricular activity (CCA) he was in charge of over more than two years was on Tuesday (Dec 17) sentenced to two years and two months' jail and three strokes of the cane.
The name of the 37-year-old man, as well as the school, CCA and any other information that might identify the victims, cannot be published due to gag orders.
The man had pleaded guilty earlier to three counts of outrage of modesty, with another six charges taken into consideration.
The court heard that the man taught a few subjects and was in charge of a uniformed group CCA.
He preyed on seven boys in 2015, 2016 and 2017, all of them aged 14 and under his charge in the CCA.
On the first occasion, he offered to drive one of the boys home after school hours.
While the boy sat in the front passenger seat, the teacher asked the boy if he watched pornography, a question that shocked the teen.
Before he could answer, the teacher made an obscene gesture with his fist suggesting masturbation.
PLAY PLAY ONLY, DON'T TELL ANY TEACHER
When they arrived outside the boy's home, the teacher suddenly molested the boy and told him: "Play play only; don't tell any teacher."
The boy was scared and did not know how to react, and later alighted from the vehicle.
A year later, the teacher preyed on another boy, who was kneeling on the floor cleaning the gym. He was being punished for missing a previous CCA session.
The teacher came up behind the boy and suddenly hugged him tight from behind.
Even though the teenager was uncomfortable and tried to wriggle out of his hold, the teacher molested him under his clothes.
Shocked and upset, the teen not knowing what to do.
The teacher told the CCA members there: "What happens here, stays in here."
The boy later quit the CCA.
He molested another student during a session in the school gym in 2017, as the boy used an exercise roller.
The teacher asked the victim how low he could go with the equipment and said he could support him, before placing his hand under the boy's body.
He clutched the boy's privates, shocking him and causing the boy to fall forward, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Joshua Lim.
The teacher laughed about the incident.
ESCALATION IN SEXUAL EXPLOITATION
The prosecutor had asked for the sentence that was meted out, saying there was an escalation in sexual exploitation and an attempt to cover the crimes up.
The case involved "egregious breaches of trust" as the man was the uniformed group teacher of all the victims, who were vulnerable.
"This case involves a public institution: a secondary school in Singapore. The court should send a clear message that sexual assault against students by members of the teaching fraternity cannot be condoned under any circumstances," said Mr Lim.
He added that predatory conduct by teachers against young students is an offence that triggers unease and offends the sensibilities of the public, and must be deterred.
Other than the three cases listed in the statement of facts, the teacher had molested four other boys in the six charges taken into consideration.
These include acts where he molested one boy repeatedly in his car and molesting others over their pants and shorts.
He was a predator who took steps to prevent his victims from reporting him, by explicitly silencing his victims and passing off the acts as horseplay, said Mr Lim.
The prosecutor said teachers perform a unique and important role in shaping the minds of the young, and parents and students do not expect teachers to be "predators masquerading as protectors".
"The sentence imposed should also deter the accused from the commission of future offences, and must provide assurance to the wider public that teachers who decide to use our institutions of learning as captive grounds for their criminal sex acts will be dealt with severely," he said.
TEACHER SUSPENDED SINCE SEPTEMBER 2017
The Ministry of Education (MOE) said that the teacher has been suspended since Sep 14, 2017, and is currently not teaching in any school.
“MOE takes a serious view of staff misconduct and will not hesitate to take disciplinary action against those who fail to adhere to our standards of conduct and discipline, including dismissal from service," said MOE, adding that it will commence internal disciplinary action against the teacher.
For each charge of outrage of modesty, the teacher could have been sentenced to two years' jail, fined, caned, or given any combination of these punishments.