Sat, Mar 19, 2005 - Page 2 News List

TAS denies mishandling of alleged sex abuse case

RESPONSE The school's superintendent said that as the alleged incident occurred off campus during a holiday, the school had no obligation to get involved

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Taipei American School (TAS) yesterday responded to accusations it had mishandled an alleged rape case and had covered up the truth, with the school's superintendent saying that responsibility laid with the parents and the school had no obligation to get involved.

"The 2003 incident took place off campus at the girl's home, during a holiday when school was not in session and the mother was overseas in New York. So we [TAS] actually have no legal obligation whatsoever," TAS superintendent Mark Ulfers said during a press conference held by the school.

"Our only obligation was to report the incident when we became aware of it. We did delay the reporting, but it's because we wanted to protect the children and it was upon the parents' requests," he said.

At a press conference on Tuesday, the mother of a 12-year-old female TAS student said her daughter had been raped in her home three times by a 17-year-old male schoolmate in 2003.

But according to Ulfers yesterday, the mother of the allegedly abused girl had told him that what had happened between the two children was consensual and that it was important to keep it confidential.

"We understood that both children had made a mistake, and took action to arrange for professional counseling as quickly as possible," he said.

The school was informed of the incident in September 2003, and reported the case to the Center for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in October.

Ulfers also denied ever forcing or threatening the mother to sign any documents, and said that no documents were ever signed.

The school had never threatened the girl with expulsion, either, he said.

However, he acknowledged that the school did initially ask that forms be signed, but said that the school dropped the issue as soon as the mother indicated a reluctance to sign.

The girl's mother on Wednesday said that the school had asked her to sign a statement indicating that the incident had involved "consensual sexual activity" between the two students.

The mother also alleged that the school had threatened to expel her child if she didn't drop a lawsuit against the accused boy. The lawsuit was settled in 2003.

The school also said that it had filed a report on the incident with the Ministry of Education in November 2003 and the ministry accepted the report.

The Ministry of Education responded in a statement that it has been in contact with both the mother and the school since the incident happened.

After the passage of the Gender Equality Education Law (性別平等教育法) last year, the ministry asked TAS to review its gender education and set up campus systems to handle sex abuse or harassment cases, the statement said.

B.F. Huang (黃碧芬), a lawyer specializing in laws related to women and children, said that the TAS superintendent's claim that the school has no legal obligation in the case contradicted the law.

The Sexual Abuse Prevention Act (性侵害防治法) and Children and Juveniles Welfare Law (兒童及少年福利法) both require educational authorities to report any cases of sexual abuse or harassment to local governments, according to Huang.

"Both laws also treat the victims' confidentiality as the priority. Local governments or authorities would not expose any of the victims' information to the public. So confidentiality should not be an issue for delaying a report" she said.

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