Complaint against school received months before teacher’s death… but case referred back to campus committee, HK education chief admits

15-Mar-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s education minister has confirmed that authorities received a complaint against a primary school months before a teacher there fell to her death.

On Wednesday, Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung admitted that instead of launching an investigation, the case was referred to the school’s committee for follow-up.

Yeung was responding to media questions relating to the death of Lam Lai-tong, 48, a Chinese and library studies teacher at TWGHs Leo Tung-hai Lee Primary School in Tin Shui Wai last Wednesday.

Lam, who had worked at the school for more than 20 years, was said to be under extreme stress and made to work while she was unwell just before her death. She fell from a six-storey campus building.

School principal Law Yuen-yee has been on leave since the incident and could not be reached for comment. The Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, which runs the school, has set up an investigative panel.

Yeung said an anonymous complaint was filed against the school last year.

He added that the Education Bureau then requested the school’s management committee which comprises supervisors, alumni, teachers and the principal to look into the case.

While it was unclear if the complainant was Lam, Yeung denied his bureau had shirked its responsibility, defending the decision not to intervene.

“Complaints involving teaching, learning and daily operations would be better handled at the school level rather than by us,” he said.

“With that said, all complaints relating to the Education Ordinance will be handled by the bureau in accordance with the law.”

Yeung also explained that when a complaint was received from school staff, especially against board members or the principal, the case would be handled according to internal procedures with help from the school in question.

In handling each case, we have to seek information from the school to make a good judgment, and asking the school for details does not imply we are letting it take over completely

Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung

“In handling each case, we have to seek information from the school to make a good judgment, and asking the school for details does not imply we are letting it take over completely,” he said.

In a separate statement, the bureau said it would not shy away from responsibility in supervising schools despite them having more authority over daily operations under a campus-based management approach.

“No one, including the principal, should dictate everything and become the so-called provincial king,” the bureau said.

However, the Professional Teachers’ Union on Wednesday condemned the government for not being more hands-on with complaints and urged a system review to curb abuse of power.

It added that an inquest should be conducted over Lam’s death to address many unanswered questions.

“It was reported that Lam tried to lodge a complaint and that she was scolded by the principal the day before her death. What happened there? We need to know,” union president Fung Wai-wah said.

“Even though an independent panel was set up to look into the teacher’s work conditions, we believe that a death inquest with the presence of a judge, jury, officials and witnesses would be more credible,” Fung added, while expressing regret over Lam’s death. She was also a union member.

Lawyer and union member Chong Yiu-kwong said: “This is in the public domain. The process will be transparent, it will dig deep into reasons and involve police investigations. Police have the power to look into the mechanism as a whole.”

If you, or someone you know, are having suicidal thoughts, help is available. For Hong Kong, dial +852 2896 0000 for The Samaritans or +852 2382 0000 for Suicide Prevention Services. In the US, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on +1 800 273 8255. For a list of other nations’ helplines, see this page.


Category: Hong Kong

Print This Post

Comments are closed.