Macau (MNA) – The Judiciary Police (PJ) said on Thursday that it is investigating a possible sexual harassment case involving two children and an employee of D. José da Costa Nunes, a kindergarten.
Representatives from the school told Macau News Agency (MNA) that complaints were made against a 30 year old male Filipino employee who has been working as the kindergarten assistant since 2015, confirming the story first reported by Portuguese newspaper Hoje Macau this morning.
“The man was a servant at the school. Our classes have a teacher, an assistant and an servant. Kids are always moving around the classrooms and outside areas and the servant helps control them,” the President of the Association for the Promotion of Macanese Education (APIM) told MNA.
The employee worked in a K1 kindergarten class with three-year-old students.
According to the police, a suspect is currently being questioned on the issue. The authorities have not disclosed any further information on his identity, with the school management only telling MNA they had no knowledge on the whereabouts of the suspended employee.
The school responsible added the employee was considered to be someone of “absolute trust” and “one of the most loved attendants,” with the complaints stating he could be the perpetrator of “such a hideous act” emerging as a “total surprise”.
“He would do extra work in the school, transporting equipment, helping in preparing school parties. It’s shocking that he could be a suspect,” Mr. Senna Fernandes said.
The school director, Marisa Peixoto, told MNA the parents of one of the children went to the school on Tuesday morning to make a complaint and inform they would also file a complaint with the PJ.
The complaints only prompted the suspension of the employee on Wednesday morning, with Mr. Senna Fernandes stating that since this was a “serious accusations,” the school wanted to make its own inquiries.
“However, another parent came forward [on Tuesday], with a complaint against the same person. Therefore, we realized there was no point to do our own inquiry so we forwarded them immediately to the PJ,” he said.
The school then suspended the employee and provided police authorities with all information on the suspect and began conducting an internal investigation to assess if more complaints existed.
A meeting between the school management with parents from the classroom where the suspect worked was held yesterday, with school representatives telling MNA possible past complaints to school staff against the man that were unknown to the management arose during the meeting.
According to Mr. Senna Fernandes, one mother stated during the meeting that she made some complaints against the assistant to her child’s teacher last October, although the mother herself wasn’t sure if the case would merit a formal complaint to the school management or police authorities.
“The complaints were made to the teacher but not referred to the school management,” Ms. Peixoto told MNA, adding she could not provide more information since an internal investigation was being conducted.
The APIM President claimed further the school management would attempt to assess if more similar cases happened before since being a “delicate subject, sometimes people do not want to mention it”.
The school director said at the moment the main priority is to assure the safety of the children and regain the trust of the parents, while conducting an internal investigation and an internal “restructuring” of the school.
“The school classes will continue their normal schedule,” she added.
[Edited by Sheyla Zandonai]