Police have searched a Tuen Mun school embroiled in a scandal for allegedly keeping “shadow students” enrolled in an effort to maintain its level of government funding.
The move came after the authorities launched an investigation into an accusation that Hing Tak School had been using falsified documents. There were more than 20 students on the class register between 2014-2016 who never attended class. The school was suspected of trying to prevent the Education Bureau from cutting its resources.
Five police officers conducted the search and took away evidence at around 3:30pm on Thursday, including a large number of student attendance records, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.
The Undersecretary for Education Choi Yuk-lin also said on Wednesday that the Education Bureau had transferred documents, including student attendance and vacancy records, to the police.
According to a former teacher, staff were asked by the principal to hand out flyers in Shenzhen so as to attract more cross-border students. The students – who never attended classes – were even allowed to graduate to subsequent school years.
In February, 14 teachers complained about the schools’s actions at a seminar it hosted to explain the issue of flyers to parents. Following that, two were fired and 12 received warnings.
The Education Bureau stepped in after receiving complaints and conducting investigations. Four school managers have been appointed to the Incorporated Management Committee in order to “help the school rectify its problems” and “to make sure that the school will operate properly.”
Lui Ki-cheung, a retired school principal, was one of the four appointed by the bureau. He and three others attended a meeting of the committee on Thursday.
However, Lui said that Chan Cheung-ping, the school’s principal who dismissed the controversy on Tuesday, was on sick leave and did not attend the meeting. The promotion of teachers and staff, and hiring issues relating to seven teacher vacancies were discussed.
Lui said that schools would normally decide on procedures for the new school year in August, ahead of the term start in September, but Chan had not provided relevant details.
“We see no record of such procedures,” Lui said. “Although the principal took sick leave, I hope the school office can provide information to me. Without the information, we will need more time.”
“In theory, she is still the principal – she is still being paid. She had sick leave, but we don’t see any arrangements,” he added.
Lui said the school had promoted young teachers – who have below two years of experience – to administrative roles. After a preliminary review, Lui said, the promotions did not follow existing procedures.
“There may be a lot of problems between two groups of teachers, with one group promoted because they supported the school,” he said.