Hong Kong mother admits to violating order requiring son, 11, to attend school after he missed all but two days
Boy now attending boarding school was chronically absent after his father died
A Hong Kong mother on Thursday admitted to violating an Education Bureau order requiring her 11-year old son to attend school, after records showed he had only been present for two days in 2016.
Tuen Mun Court heard the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, began missing school in 2015, a year after his father passed away and left him to his mother’s care.
Attendance records obtained from his Tin Shui Wai school showed he had been absent for 148 days when he was required to attend 220 days in 2015.
The situation worsened the following year, with the boy missing 174 out of 176 days of class.
His poor attendance, coupled with his self-harming tendencies discovered in early 2017, prompted inquiries from his school and social workers, who conducted home visits on three occasions from last September to this January. They found him home alone.
The Education Bureau also issued multiple verbal and written warnings to his mother, 52, before finally imposing an order on November 22 last year to compel his regular attendance.
But the mother, according to social workers and a bureau inspector, appeared evasive and refused help. It was not until December 12 that she finally acknowledged the order.
She was arrested on February 6, after an officer found her son playing by himself on a football field in Tin Shui Wai.
Under caution, the mother told investigators she had attempted to put the boy back in school but he had refused, so she gave up.
The boy eventually returned to class after the authorities obtained a care or protection order in late February. He is currently attending a boarding school in Kowloon.
His mother pleaded guilty on Thursday to one count of non-compliance of an attendance order, and four other counts of neglect by those in charge of a child.
The court heard in mitigation she had been unemployed for the past 12 years, relying on welfare payments to support her son, who allegedly began to detest schooling after a teacher scolded him.
But acting principal magistrate Ivy Chui Yee-mei noted the child needed to go to school to receive an education and establish a social life.
“His development will be affected if he spends most of his time at home,” she warned.
Sentencing was adjourned to October 15, pending reports on the suitability of probation and community service.
Under Hong Kong law, non-compliance of an attendance order is punishable by a HK$10,000 (US$1,200) fine and three months in jail. Child neglect carries a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment upon summary conviction.