Tape reveals how staff at a secondary school were told 'not to comfort' teenager shut in computer room for 5 months A group of teachers at an Aberdeen school have given the South China Morning Post a tape of a staff meeting in which a voice, alleged to be that of their principal, instructs them not to talk to a teenager mysteriously isolated in a computer room for five months. The staff - about half the senior teachers from Po Leung Kuk Wai Yin College in Tin Wan - are frustrated that no action was taken to investigate, despite the fact that it had been reported in the media. The Form One student, Chan Sin-ting, 13, was confined to the room between November last year and June, allegedly without lessons. The school was closed for nearly two months during that period because of the Sars outbreak. The teachers, who met regional education officers this week to air their grievances, are calling for the Education and Manpower Bureau to investigate this and other alleged incidents in the school and its principal Cecilia Yeung Mi-kuen. 'We are in hell. We can't bear it any more,' one of the teachers said. The tape is of a staff meeting in June, before the incident was reported in a Chinese newspaper, and on it the voice, said to be Ms Yeung, orders teachers to avoid the teenager. 'We have done a lot for her to help her grow ... but we are very happy that we are at the final stage [of sorting out the problem]. Unfortunately, Chan Sin-ting likes us very much, she likes us more and more, so much so that she refuses to leave the school. Why? It's because we treated her too well,' the voice is heard to say. 'If we continued to treat her like this, our affections will cause harm to her. She would be sitting [in the room] every day for a few years, without learning anything. So, starting from this week, you will see me forcing her back to the room if she is loitering in the corridor. 'I hope all of you will co-operate. Don't do anything for her if she asks you to help ... she could not control herself without medication ... if you walk past her room, there is no need to give special care for her, don't comfort her, and there is no need to say goodbye.' The South China Morning Post asked Ms Yeung to listen to the tape and comment on the meeting, but she refused. 'I don't want to listen to the tape. It's meaningless ... there is no point to taking out bits and pieces of what a person says,' she said, adding: 'I don't remember what I said so long ago. But I never told teachers not to talk to Chan Sin-ting.' Why the girl was confined remains a mystery. 'The principal said that to protect the girl's privacy she could not tell us anything about her. She never mentioned why she locked her up, except she said she was very dangerous,' one of them said. Rumours spread throughout the school that the girl had threatened another pupil with either a pair of scissors or a ruler. 'The girl was very quickly sent to hospital, but the doctor reported she was fit for school,' a teacher said. The teachers say they believe this was a one-off incident, when the girl was upset. 'In reality the girl is not violent. She's actually like a lamb,' one of them said. The principal claimed in a letter to parents that the pupil had not been put under 'solitary confinement' and that she was taught together with her classmates in art, music, and PE lessons. Other times, she was under the care of a few teachers assigned to take care of her, she said. But the teachers said the teenager did not have lessons with her classmates until the case was revealed in the press in June. 'If she was taken care of, why did the principal have to say she would send her back to her room if she saw her loitering in the corridor?' The girl has been studying at the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Tsui Tsin Tong School in Wah Fu Estate, Aberdeen, since September under an EMB arrangement. The principal there said she was adapting well. The teachers say they are now taking action because of the way the teenager was treated as well as other complaints. In a letter to Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa and copied to the EMB and the school sponsoring body, they said a boy had been expelled after being found in possession of a cigarette packet. They told the South China Morning Post there was no consistency in school policy. Another pupil, whom they described as a bully, punched a classmate in the face recently but was allowed to stay at school. Ms Yeung refused to comment on either allegation, but stressed she had not treated pupils unfairly. In addition to their complaints over the way pupils have been treated, the teachers say they are also upset about the way Ms Yeung has treated them. They said she would often tell them off if they were seen chatting in the staff room. They also claimed their meeting reports were censored. A parent said she often saw teachers being 'harshly scolded' by the principal in PTA meetings. 'The school seriously lacks transparency. We are still unclear what happened to Chan Sin-ting. Despite this, we obliged when the principal asked us parents to send letters to the EMB and Po Leung Kuk to support the school when the case was revealed,' the parent said. 'But now, I feel that if the school had not done anything wrong, it wouldn't be necessary for us to send letters.' Ms Yeung said she wasn't aware of problems with her staff. 'I never see myself as superior. There is always a joyful atmosphere in the staffroom,' she said and denied censorship or telling parents to send letters to support the school in the Chan Sin-ting case. The principal added that teachers might be complaining because they were feeling the pressure of work. The teachers said they were disappointed with the outcome of their meeting with Regional Education Officers on Monday. 'We spilled our guts to them for three hours, but all they said was that we should go to the school management committee,' said one teacher. 'But that is a farce, the committee can't do anything. And once we do go to the committee they will know who the teachers are. 'We all worry about persecution.' Kwong Sin-mee, who heads the Regional Education Office for southern district and attended the meeting, said she would follow up on the teachers' complaints, pledging to sort out the problems with the school and Po Leung Kuk school management group. But both the principal and the school sponsoring body said the EMB had not contacted them three days after the complaints were made. Mak Kwai-po, principal education secretary of Po Leung Kuk, said he had not received any complaints from teachers or parents, adding that significant improvement had been made in teaching. Mr Mak said school managers visited a few times every year but admitted it would be difficult for teachers to raise complaints about a principal on those occasions. But a teacher said the complaint letter he sent to the press in June was copied to the school sponsoring body. Another of the teachers said: 'The staff have a total lack of confidence in the principal. We are talking about real problems in a Hong Kong school affecting staff and students, and the EMB says it can't do anything about it. That is a real indictment of school-based management. The EMB now has no power to do anything except push paper.'