Written Question on Prevention of young students from being sexually assaulted by tutors

Question:

In recent years, cases have occurred from time to time in which tutors of tutorial or interest classes offered by tutorial schools or education centres (“private educational institutions”) and private tutors sexually assaulted young students. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of cases in the past three years of tutors of private educational institutions and private tutors allegedly sexually assaulting students, and the respective numbers of such cases in which the tutors concerned were prosecuted and convicted, as well as the sentences imposed on the convicted persons by the court;

(2) of the annual numbers of employers, since the implementation of the Sexual Conviction Record Check Scheme (“the Scheme”) in December 2011, applying for checking whether their prospective employees had any sexual conviction record and, among them, the number of those which were private educational institutions; whether it has conducted any study on revising the Scheme to allow employers to check if their serving employees have such records and parents to check if the private tutors they intend to hire have such records; if it has conducted such a study, of the progress; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) whether it has put in place any mechanism (e.g. the imposition of fines or cancellation of the relevant licences) to penalise those private educational institutions which have failed to implement appropriate preventive measures, thus resulting in their students being sexually assaulted by the tutors employed by them; if it has, of the details; if not, the current monitoring measures to ensure that students of such institutions are protected from sexual assaults, and whether it will conduct a study on the feasibility of implementing a penalty mechanism;

(4) whether it has any plan to establish a registration system for tutors, under which persons who have committed sexual offences will be denied registration as tutors; if it has such a plan, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(5) whether it has stepped up public education to increase the alertness to guard against sexual assaults among students attending tutorial and interest classes, as well as their parents, and issued guidelines to private educational institutions to assist them in implementing measures for protecting students from sexual assaults; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply:

President,

(1) The Hong Kong Police Force does not maintain relevant figures.

(2) At present, all institutions providing services for children or mentally incapacitated persons (MIPs) can make use of the Sexual Conviction Record Check (SCRC) Scheme when engaging persons or service providers to undertake work that requires frequent contact with children or MIPs, so as to ascertain whether the applicants have any criminal conviction records against a specified list of sexual offences. The Scheme aims to help reduce the risk of sexual abuse to children or MIPs and give them better protection.

Applications for the check should be submitted by the prospective employees voluntarily to the SCRC Office of the Hong Kong Police Force. Up to end 2013, the SCRC Office has processed a total of around 75 000 new applications for checking and around 5 900 renewal applications. Details are at Annex 1.

The Administration does not keep breakdown of the number of applicants by the various sectors.

At this stage, the Scheme is not applicable to existing employees and the private tutors hired by parents. Depending on the processing capacity of the Scheme, the Administration is currently in active consideration of the proposal to gradually expand the scope of the Scheme to cover existing employees engaged in child or MIP-related work, with the initial idea to first extend the service to the contract renewal staff of private tutorial centres and interest/activity institutions. The Administration will communicate with the stakeholders in relation to the proposal, in a bid to extend the SCRC service in the near future to the existing staff who need to renew their contract in these private institutions.

(3) According to the Education Ordinance, the Permanent Secretary for Education may cancel the registration or provisional registration of a school if it appears to the Permanent Secretary for Education that the school is not being managed satisfactorily, or that the education of the students is not being promoted in a proper manner.

(4) The Education Bureau (EDB) has no plan to establish a separate registration system for tutors. As a matter of fact, the Education (Exemption) (Private Schools Offering Non-formal Curriculum) Order provides that a person who has been convicted of a sexual offence may not teach in an exempted school (including a tutorial school) unless the person is a registered teacher or has a permit to teach.

(5) On prevention and handling of child abuse (including sexual abuse) incidents, the Social Welfare Department has compiled the Procedural Guide for Handling Child Abuse Cases which provides guidance to government departments, non-governmental organisations and other concerned sectors for reference to professionals whose work brings them into close contact with children. In addition, the EDB has issued a circular to all the schools urging them to pay close attention to the welfare and safety of students. Schools are advised to keep an eye on the behaviour and emotion of students for early identification of whether they have been abused, including sexually abused, and provision of necessary assistance. The EDB has also provided schools with procedures for handling child sexual abuse cases involving school personnel. In parallel, the EDB has developed an online resource platform through which relevant information is disseminated to parents to help them instil a sense of self-protection in their children to protect them against sexual assaults. All the information has been uploaded onto the EDB’s website for parents’ and public reference. Moreover, the EDB organises talks or seminars annually to raise the awareness of the teachers and social workers about protecting students against sexual assaults, and advise them on early identification, intervention and support of student victims. On these talks and seminars, teachers and social workers are also urged to keep abreast of the latest crime-related news at the community and district levels and make use of their professional knowledge to remind parents of the need to protect their children against sexual assaults at parent education activities.

The Government has attached great importance to students’ awareness of self-protection. On educating the students, sex education and safety awareness are covered in different Key Learning Areas and subjects of the pre-primary, primary and secondary curricula. Topics such as understanding the body, identifying inappropriate physical contact, how to say no and seek help are included in the Personal Growth Education of primary schools. The EDB encourages schools to organise sex-related preventive and developmental guidance activities for students at weekly assemblies or in class teacher lessons to teach students how to protect their bodies, say no when they feel offended and seek help when they run into trouble.

Annex 1: http://gia.info.gov.hk/general/201406/11/P201406110442_0442_129730.pdf

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