Security measures in schools to continue to be updated in ‘targeted’ manner without affecting 'homeliness': Chan Chun Sing
SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Education (MOE) will continue to update security measures in schools in a “targeted” manner, without losing the sense of “homeliness” of the school environment, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said in Parliament on Tuesday (Jul 27).
As efforts are made to enhance security at schools, the quality of the school experience for students and staff should not be compromised, he said in a ministerial statement.
“MOE will continue to update our security measures in a targeted manner and apply them sensitively to balance the security needs without losing our sense of safety, trust and homeliness of the school environment,” said Mr Chan.
The minister did not elaborate on potential measures that may be implemented.
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Mr Chan’s statement comes in the wake of an incident at River Valley High School last week, where a Secondary 4 student was arrested and charged over the death of a Secondary 1 boy.
The 13-year-old boy was found lying motionless in a school toilet with multiple wounds. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Preliminary investigations have revealed that the two students had not known each other before the incident, and that the axe was purchased online.
Mr Chan said on Tuesday that parents “are understandably worried” following the incident.
The security and well-being of students and staff is critical and schools must continue to be safe places for students to learn, grow and play, said Mr Chan.
However, he added, “the real key to staying safe” lies not with more intrusive security measures, but in prevention and enhanced community vigilance.
“We all have a collective role to play in looking out for potentially deviant or worrying behaviours and report possible threats in our midst.”
Mr Chan said MOE does not want schools to be turned into “fortresses”, creating unease and stress among staff and students.
“We also do not wish to paradoxically engender a siege mentality amongst students and staff, causing them to take extreme measures to protect themselves, at the expense of a shared sense of security,” he said.
Mr Chan said authorities also do not want to compromise the quality of the school experience for students and staff, pointing out that school is like a “second home”.
“I have asked myself this difficult question – what would it feel like if I must empty my pockets, be frisked, and have my bag checked before stepping through my house door or school gate?” he added.
“Also, how would my fellow family members and students feel? How would we relate to one another in such an environment? Will it still be 'home'? Or will it create in me a siege mentality? None of us wish to return to a home with metal scanners and bag checks.”
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CURRENT SAFETY MEASURES
Mr Chan said MOE has implemented various security measures in schools, including physical barriers such as fences, roller shutters, closed-circuit television cameras and alarm systems.
Security officers also conduct spot checks and register visitors before they enter the school, while teachers are trained to respond to different emergency scenarios, he said.
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Schools have a protocol in place to deal with emergencies, to respond, recover and restore the situation back to normalcy, Mr Chan said. The School Emergency Structure covers areas such as first-aid, search, trauma management, evacuation, handling of casualties and managing the emergency operations centre.
“School leaders, staff and students take part in regular emergency training exercises to practise how to handle emergency situations in the school, including security incidents,” he said, adding that the police and the Singapore Civil Defence Force are involved in such exercises and drills.
Mr Chan said he has discussed the issue of school security with school leaders, adding that they were “unanimous” in their responses.
“School is like a second home to our children and all of us. It is a safe place where values are cultivated; life-long relationships are built, and a shared identity is forged,” he stated.
“It is a warm and supportive environment that allows students with different learning needs and aspirations to discover their passions and develop their strengths. And above all, it is a trusted space.”
Where to get help:
Samaritans of Singapore Hotline: 1800 221 4444
Institute of Mental Health’s Helpline: 6389 2222
Singapore Association of 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.