In a recent high-profile case, the abuse of a five-year-old girl went on for months before she died at the hands of her parents, raising painful questions about why educators did not intervene in time.
I have been closely following your coverage of the murder trial of the father and stepmother who subjected their five-year-old daughter to long-term abuse, and I am deeply concerned by the manner in which this case was dismissed and handled by the school and related authorities (“Did Hong Kong’s schools and system fail girl, 5, murdered by parents in horrific child abuse case?”, April 15). This tragedy, like many other child abuse cases, could have been prevented if proper action had been taken and issues raised.
Child abuse is a serious matter; cases concerning suspected abuse should be reported to authorities immediately.
However, one of the many problems, it seems, is that teachers would cast doubt on the child’s words and/or feel reluctant to report such incidents for fear of ruining their school’s reputation. In this case, teachers were well aware of the injuries inflicted on the poor child and there were clear signs of abuse.
The moment the family withdrew the child from school was an obvious red flag and action should have been taken promptly. Whether the case had been dismissed or was awaiting further processing by the Social Welfare Department, the school should have alerted the authorities. Unfortunately, no such actions were taken and the child disappeared into the mist until she was rushed unconscious to hospital where she was certified dead in January 2018.
While the parents are no doubt responsible for this heinous crime, shouldn’t schools and related persons be held accountable for not taking appropriate action to prevent such crimes? Educators are children’s next closest thing to family and would be the first to notice should a child exhibit any atypical behaviour or signs of abuse.
Not taking immediate action is no different from being an accomplice to the crime. I am appalled by the negligent behaviour of the school, and deeply saddened to see school authorities value their school’s reputation over a child’s life.
As educators, we are responsible for protecting the well-being of children, and must not knowingly put them in harm’s way. I urge the authorities to regulate how suspected child abuse cases should be handled in schools, and for educators and schools to be held accountable should they fail to report such incidents to the authorities.