Teachers and schools have never needed parental consent to report suspected child abuse to the authorities, according to the guidelines issued by the Education Bureau on Monday.
But Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung did not say whether schools would be dealt with harshly if they were found not to have reported suspected cases.
“We have said very clearly that if the schools have noticed some abnormalities, they have a duty to report to the relevant authorities. Under the same rationale, if they have noticed cases that are justified for reporting to the police, they should do so,” he said.
The guidelines state that if kindergartens, primary and secondary schools had reason to suspect that parents or guardians were the source of child abuse, parental consent is not required to refer suspected cases to the family and child protective services units of the Social Welfare Department.
Ho Yu College and Primary School Principal Lee Suet-ying welcomed the clarification.
“In the past, [there was the belief that] the family and child protective services units might not have accepted suspected cases without the parents’ consent,” Lee said, referring to cases not seen as severe enough to warrant a police complaint.
But the social welfare lawmaker, Shiu Ka-chun, said the guidelines were inadequate as they did not address what would happen if schools did not report suspected child abuse.
Victims of child abuse can visit welfare department centres that can be found in every district of Hong Kong for help and counselling services from registered social workers, says the department’s website.
The social welfare departments will also send someone with the victims to report cases to the police if needed. It also offers victims psychological and legal services.