SINGAPORE — The key to keeping Singapore's students safe lies more in prevention and enhanced community vigilance rather than intrusive security measures, said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing in Parliament on Tuesday (27 July).
"We all have a collective role to play in looking out for potentially deviant or worrying behaviours and report possible threats in our midst," he said while delivering a Ministerial Statement on last week's death of a River Valley High School (RVHS) student.
On 19 July, a 16-year-old male RVHS student was arrested on suspicion of having killed a fellow 13-year-old male student on campus. The suspect was charged with murder the following day and has since been remanded for psychiatric evaluation.
In his speech, Chan noted that efforts to enhance security at schools should not "compromise the quality of school experience for our students and staff".
"We do not want to turn our schools into fortresses, which will create unease and stress among our staff and students. We also do not wish to paradoxically engender a siege mentality amongst students and staff, causing them to take extreme measures to protect themselves, at the expense of a shared sense of security," he said.
Among the current security features at schools are physical barriers – such as fences, CCTVs and alarm systems to detect intruders – as well as security officers who conduct checks on and register any campus visitors.
All Singapore schools have a School Emergency Structure to deal with emergencies, which cover areas such as first aid, search, trauma management, evacuation, handling of casualties and management of an operations centre, Chan said.
"Teachers are trained to respond to different emergency scenarios. School leaders, staff and students take part in regular emergency training exercises to practise how to handle emergency situations in the school, including security incidents," said Chan, adding that the police and Singapore Civil Defence Force are involved in such training.
The Ministry of Education would continue to update school security measures in a "targeted manner" and "apply them sensitively to balance the security needs without losing the sense of safety, trust and homeliness of the school environment".
Chan also praised RVHS' students and staff for their response to last week's incident. He noted that RVHS students had carried out the "Run-Hide-Tell" steps from their emergency response exercise exactly as they were trained to do.
RVHS teachers had also responded swiftly and courageously by engaging the suspect and keeping the students' safety as their utmost priority, said Chan, who also praised the RVHS principal who had returned from medical leave to deal with the incident.
"To the teachers, despite your own grief and shock, you attended to your students and are still helping them cope with their difficult emotions. Thank you."