Security firms must be responsible for background checks of personnel stationed at schools

THE system in place to prevent sexual criminals and those who endanger children from acquiring jobs in schools has significant flaws, as evidenced by the recent case of suspected murder and arson by a school guard in Bandar Tun Razak, Cheras.

In the aftermath of the brutal rape and murder of a 17-year-old schoolgirl in Teluk Kumbar in October 2015 by a school security guard with a criminal record, the 2004 gang-rape and murder of a 10-year-old girl by a security guard in Gelang Patah, and other unreported incidents, and despite promises that hiring procedures for school guards would be tightened, parents are still constantly fearful that there may be other sex offenders cleared by security agencies to work as school security guards.

A comprehensive vetting and banning mechanism must be implemented, including mandatory criminal background checks for all current school security staff and future recruits.

These checks must be more thorough, including information about individuals who may not have a criminal conviction, such as the killer and rapist of Canny Ong, who had been suspected of rape four times previously but never charged.

Surely, we are unambiguous in our commitment to the safety of children as our first concern.

The Cheras school’s security guard is suspected of molesting the school bookstore assistant before burning her to death.

The question that resurfaces is how a man with prior criminal sexual offence convictions slipped past the vetting process and was hired to work at a school.

Schools are legally recognised institutions. When a school has hundreds of female students and employees, allowing a sexual offender to work there is akin to allowing a fox to watch the chicken coop.

Since 2019, I have been advocating for the establishment of a National Sex Offender Registry that would be made easily available online to all members of the public, searchable by name, year or area code, and include all types of convicted sex crime offenders.

In some countries, there already exists data repositories for all records of sexual offenders and rapists to ensure that their activities are constantly monitored.

It is not to discriminate against individuals on the basis of prior convictions or to deny them their human rights.

However, history demonstrates that sexual offenders do not fit into the same category. It is a state of mind they possess, and society must be safeguarded against such potential harm and risk.

The procedures in vetting school staff must account for sexual offenders’ proclivity to fabricate their names, which means the vetting processes must be sophisticated enough to collect all facts.

Nobody must be allowed to begin work before a criminal background check has been completed and the results obtained.

If previous allegations against a person result in the dismissal of a case, such data must nevertheless be recorded. These facts would be stored in police intelligence systems.

In other words, data protection rules must not apply to sexual offenders when it comes to the safety of children, and as we have just seen, school staff.

It is critical that all information on known child sex offenders is reported to the screening system, including any convictions or investigations that suggest a danger may exist.

Surely, it is high time that all security firms assume responsibility for thoroughly screening all guards and personnel before delivering them to schools.

Please, do not ever let sexual offenders enter the school gates.

CHAN QUIN ER is a lawyer and an MCA central committee member

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