Lawsuit threat over student discipline

Top News | Phoebe Ng 6 Sep 2017

Web users have come down hard on a "helicopter parent" for threatening to sue a teacher for disciplining students or posting their names on websites without the permission of parents.

According to the unnamed teacher, the parent had sent her a lawyer's letter demanding an end to skirt-length and underwear checks.

The letter also said students should not be punished for their off-campus conduct and requested a response within seven days, adding that inaction would be deemed an "agreement of the letter's terms."

The story went viral on Facebook, with users slamming the parent for intimidating teachers.

However, some parents reckoned that certain school rules were "out of touch" with society.

The complaint was originally posted on the Facebook page "Hong Kong Monster Parents" at the request of a teacher seeking advice.

"I have some problems with your notices. If there's any problem you can contact my solicitor," the parent said when asked by the teacher.

In just 10 hours, the post was shared and commented on at least 260 times, with most telling the teacher "not to succumb" to pressure.

"It will not be long before teachers have to seek consent, or file lawsuits before disciplining students," commented Facebook user Matthew Cheung.

Another, Stella Leung, called the guardian a "helicopter parent."

Parents Alliance spokeswoman Annie Cheung Yim-shuen said parents should try to consult with schools before issuing a legal letter.

"It seems a bit inappropriate," Cheung said. "But if the school continues to act unreasonably, you have to do what you can in order to protect your child."

She acknowledged some school rules - like restricting the color of underwear and making girls tie up their hair - are "outdated" and "out of touch" with current times.

Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools chairman Lee Suet-ying said such cases were "unheard of."

Lee added: "It is true that in today's society, school rules and disciplines have to be balanced with privacy and human rights. But I'm sure most schools are aware of that. And we have never heard of members encountering such things before."

Barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung offered some reassurance to educators, saying a legal letter merely contains a client's instructions.

"Legal letters may seem like some authoritative documents. But keep in mind, it is not law, nor is it a court order," Luk said. As long as teachers act in accordance with the law, they can carry on doing what they deem appropriate, he added.

"The letter has no power to impose anything on the teacher - even if they do not reply in seven days," Luk said.

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