Teacher, 37, jailed for indecent acts with female pupil, 12
In 2012, he won the prestigious Caring Teacher Award at school level, which recognises teachers who show care and concern for the holistic development of their pupils.
That same year, he developed an unhealthy interest in one of his pupils in Primary 5 that went beyond concern.
The married man who had just become the father of a girl four months earlier, would later abuse his position by starting an illicit relationship with the female pupil the following year.
In April 2013, he hugged the girl, then 12, and French kissed her on three occasions.
The former physical education (PE) teacher, 37, was jailed for a year yesterday after pleading guilty to three counts of committing indecent acts with her.
Five other similar charges involving the girl were taken into consideration during sentencing.
The man and the school cannot be named to protect the victim's identity.
He was the girl's PE teacher in 2012 and enjoyed talking to her, as he found her mature.
They exchanged mobile phone numbers and he started texting her almost daily to ask how she was doing.
On Oct 1, he gave her a sports bag, a towel and a pair of socks, which he said were Children's Day gifts and she was the only one to get them because he liked her more than the other pupils.
The girl's father discovered his text messages to her that evening and confiscated her mobile phone. He later contacted the teacher and confronted him.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Kelly Ho said: "(The teacher) apologised to the victim's father and stopped sending text messages to the victim. However, (he) continued to communicate with the victim via Facebook."
About four months later, he gave her a book as a birthday present and told her to delete their text messages so others would not know about their relationship.
DPP Ho said: "(He) also told the victim that he loved her and wanted to hug her and the victim reciprocated his feelings.
"He would address the victim as his dearest in his text messages to her. The victim fancied herself in love with (him)."
In April 2013, they began meeting early in the morning in the school's indoor sports hall before classes started.
He would hug and kiss her. Over time, the hugs became longer and the kisses more intimate.
DPP Ho told District Judge Shaifuddin Saruwan: "The victim started to worry about their relationship and voiced her concerns to (him). (He) told her not to worry and that he would make sure things would be all right."
The court heard that at around 6.45am on April 15, he hugged the girl and kissed both her cheeks, forehead and lips in the sports hall.
Two days later, he told her that his wife and parents were not home as his father-in-law had been hospitalised.
He invited the girl to his home and she accepted.
They reached his home at around 4pm and sat on the living room sofa. He then kissed her several times on her lips and inserted his tongue into her mouth.
After about 15 minutes, he drove her to her grandmother's home.
At around 6.45am the next day, they met again at the school sports hall where he hugged and kissed her.
After the victim took part in a national competition in Bishan Stadium, he drove her back to school to pick up her bag before heading to her grandmother's home. Throughout the journey, they held hands, which rested on her thigh.
That evening, she was texting him in her bedroom when her father entered and took away her mobile phone.
After sending his daughter to school the next day, he went to the principal to complain about the teacher.
The principal made a police report at around 8.30am that day.
Quoting a report by Dr Parvathy Pathy from the Child Guidance Clinic, DPP Ho said the girl felt ashamed and guilty about the incidents.
She said: "She believed she might have had positive feelings towards (the man) at that time. Looking back, she feels somewhat disgusted by it."
During mitigation, the man's lawyer, Mr Tito Isaac, told the judge that according to medical reports, his client is neither a sexual predator nor a paedophile.
But DPP Ho stressed that the case had gone beyond a normal teacher-student relationship.
Responding to queries from The New Paper, the Ministry of Education said it does not tolerate educators who misconduct themselves.
Its spokesman said: "As educators who play a key role in nurturing our children, they must uphold the highest professional standards."
For each count of committing an indecent act with the child, the man could have been jailed up to five years and fined up to $10,000.
He would address the victim as his dearest in his text messages to her. The victim fancied herself in love with (him).
- Deputy Public Prosecutor Kelly Ho
Teachers will be dealt with
Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said that his ministry would step up efforts to get across to teachers the professional boundaries they must not cross.
Mr Heng said this when he addressed for the first time the spate of sexual crimes involving teachers and their students in Parliament last July.
He said: "We are deeply disappointed with the cases of misconduct that have happened.
"Whenever we uncover any case of sexual misconduct between educators and students, they will be thoroughly investigated and the transgressors will be severely dealt with."
The Ministry of Education will also involve students and parents in detecting "unacceptable behaviour".
Mr Heng urged parents to be involved in their children's lives.
Students must also not be passive victims when they notice unacceptable behaviour, he said.
Report potential sex abuse early
Parents should go to the police or at least the school principal the moment they think their children could fall victim to sexual predators, says psychologist Daniel Koh.
"Anything indecent involving a child should be reported to the authorities immediately," he said.
"A child might not make the right decisions and it's always best to nip the problem in the bud."
Mr Koh, who runs Insights Mind Centre, added that giving gifts and singling a child out is the second stage of sexual grooming.
"Things like gifts or making a child stand out are warning signs that the child might be in danger," he said.
"Usually, it starts with the person getting close, followed by gifts and then from there they form some sort of relationship.
"But sadly, in most cases, sexual grooming is discovered only when it's too late, when either the victim or the groomer gets caught."
He feels some parents might not want to involve the authorities because "they don't want to cause their child trauma or problems in school and in their future".
But he said: "It's always better to bring it up so appropriate action can be taken. Prevention is always better than cure."
OTHER TEACHERS IN TROUBLE
A physical education teacher who entered into a relationship with his pupil - despite her being 20 years his junior - was jailed for 22 months on Aug 8 last year.
The 34-year-old man pleaded guilty to four of six charges of committing an indecent act and procuring a child to commit an indecent act.
One evening in March 2012, they went to Lakeside Park in Jurong where they hugged and kissed.
Eight months later, he was alone with the then 12-year-old pupil in her family's flat when he suggested that they shower together.
She agreed and they hugged, kissed and applied soap on each other.
On a different occasion at the flat, they were chatting when he took her hands and placed them inside his trousers.
A woman abused her position as a teacher when she French kissed a Primary 6 pupil from her school and left love bites on him in 2012.
The 42-year-old teacher pleaded guilty to two counts of committing indecent acts on the boy.
The married mother of four was sentenced to six months' jail on Feb 19 last year.
A former primary school teacher was the first woman in Singapore to be hauled to court for being sexually intimate with an underage boy.
She was jailed for 10 months on Feb 23, 2009, after pleading guilty to one charge of having sex with the boy.
At the time, the married teacher was 31 and the boy was 15.
The woman, who taught moral education and Chinese, had sex with the boy six times between March and May in 2008.