Former history teacher jailed 15 months for sexually exploiting student who later committed suicide
SINGAPORE: A 46-year-old man was sentenced to 15 months' jail on Tuesday (May 24) for sexually exploiting a student while working as a history teacher in a secondary school, reported TODAY.
The former teacher pleaded guilty in November 2020 to two criminal charges of committing an indecent act with a young person under the Children and Young Persons Act.
Two other similar charges were taken into consideration for sentencing. The man will begin serving his sentence next week and remains out on a S$20,000 bail.
The man, and the school he taught at, cannot be named due to a court order to protect the victim’s identity.
According to TODAY, the man was 36 when he started a "relationship" with the student, then 15, and committed indecent acts with her on campus in 2011. After a few months, he ended things and she graduated.
The victim returned to the school three years later to work as a relief teacher. But the sexual acts only came to light another four years later, prompting the principal to lodge a police report.
The victim committed suicide in May last year at the age of 25. She had been diagnosed with anorexia and major depressive disorder several years earlier.
The accused left the Ministry of Education in 2018 around when his offences were reported, said TODAY.
The court previously heard that the accused has a history of bipolar disorder, but a psychiatrist found that a mandatory treatment order was not suitable for him.
This is a community sentencing option offered to offenders suffering from mental conditions that contributed to the offence.
"I CAN DO ANYTHING NOW"
TODAY reported that the accused met the victim in 2009, the same year he was posted to the school as a history teacher.
In August 2010, they spent more time together as she was the student head of the co-curricular activity that the accused was in charge of. He also taught an advanced history class which she attended.
During this time, the accused and the victim began talking about personal matters with each other over coffee and through text messages. They also stayed in contact when the man went to London for a holiday in December that same year, sharing that they missed each other.
According to TODAY, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Asoka Markandu told the court that the girl understood from their conversations that he wanted her to treat him like a partner.
When they returned to school in January 2011, the accused and the victim began to meet more frequently in school. By end-February, they were in a "relationship" and held hands when alone on campus.
TODAY reported that between March and May 2011, the pair were alone in a room when the accused grabbed the victim's wrists, lifted them above her head and pressed her against the wall.
He told her: “I can do anything now” before letting go of her wrists after several seconds.
DPP Markandu told the court the victim recalled feeling confused and embarrassed by his actions but did not react or say anything.
Around the same time, the pair were alone in the room again when the accused groped her private parts under her underwear. Taken by surprise, the victim did not say anything and stepped away when he removed his hand.
They continued to communicate and met during the June holidays in 2011.
When the new term started, the accused told the victim that their relationship was over and did not make further advances towards her. They stayed in touch when she left the school.
VICTIM RETURNED TO THE SCHOOL AS RELIEF TEACHER
The victim returned to the school as a relief teacher in January 2014 to teach history for six months.
TODAY reported that during this period, the victim began showing signs of an eating disorder. The accused accompanied her to Singapore General Hospital where she was referred for treatment.
The victim stopped contacting the accused in November on her psychiatrist's advice. She later told a friend about what had happened between her and the accused.
The matter was escalated to the principal who filed a police report on the victim's behalf, said TODAY.
DPP Ng Jean Ting, who sought at least 12 months’ jail, said that the victim developed suicidal ideation after the accused broke up with her.
She felt like he had "broken her" and she should "disappear and not exist", TODAY reported.
The victim's weight fluctuated significantly due to her eating disorder and she could not concentrate in school. She was formally diagnosed with anorexia and major depressive disorder in 2014. In that same year, she also attempted suicide three times and was warded in the hospital for 10 days before being referred to a psychiatrist.
In 2016, the victim told her psychiatrist that she was distressed about her relationship with the accused. She followed her psychiatrist's advice to stop communicating with him.
However, this triggered her suicidal ideations once more. The victim was warded again for four weeks in October 2017 for electroconvulsive therapy.
In May last year, the victim took her own life, said DPP Ng.
As for the accused's bipolar disorder, another psychiatrist found that the mental illness did not have a contributory linked to his offences, said TODAY. The accused clearly knew what he was doing given that he had made his advances only when they were alone in the room.
For each charge of committing an indecent act, he could have been jailed for up to five years or fined up to S$10,000, or both.
Editor's note: An earlier version of story stated that the accused pleaded guilty in 2021. It should have been 2020. We apologise for the error.
Where to get help:
Samaritans of Singapore Hotline: 1800 221 4444
Institute of Mental Health’s Helpline: 6389 2222
Singapore Association for Mental Health Helpline: 1800 283 7019
You can also find a list of international helplines here. If someone you know is at immediate risk, call 24-hour emergency medical services.