5 year old son felt like dying after being humiliated by teacher

By Honey Swee

This is a case of a teacher’s regrettable actions towards my child; she is Ms Theresa of Zoo-phonics Serangoon branch.

The incident happened on 5th July 2016 during class. Ms Theresa singled out my son to stand in front of the class for sporting “long hair” which by the way is NOT a violation of any standing school regulations. Subsequently, she used a female hair clip and clipped my boy's hair up as if he was a girl, much to the amusement of all the other kids. Then she threatened to repeat such an action if he did not cut his hair by the next school day. This very act of clipping my boy's hair subjected him to the laughter of the entire class.

This incident was narrated to me, thereafter by the next teacher who has taught him for 4 years, Chinese teacher Ms Peng. She noticed his abnormal and despondent behavior and asked him and the class what happened. My son did not answer; his classmates filled her in with details of the earlier incident.

My son later revealed to me after we had left the school compound, that during the period of time he was been humiliated, he was too scared and traumatized to cry out or even somewhat react. He feared more punishment and humiliation if he was to be seen as defiant. Only after had Ms Theresa left the class, did he started to weep in his seat.

I brought my son home, settled him down and tried to reassure him. His response to me on what happened, in a very firm tone, was "he wanted to die". He said he felt like dying when entire class laughed at him.

The handling of the incident to me was absolutely unbecoming and unacceptable of an early childhood development teacher.

Firstly, I will like to seek clarification on what grounds or standard did this teacher define my son’s hair as being too long, or it merely her own interpretation on what a young boy’s proper hairstyle should be. If no existing rule governing such matters has been established in the school thus far, this act itself of pushing through her "brand of discipline" is no different than a thug holding one at knifepoint.

Secondly, is the act of humiliating my son in front of all others at the tender age of five, in line with your school’s teaching and ECDA? I wish to bring to your utmost attention that the amount of psychological damage done to my son might be irreparable, and the resulting fear to return to school might turn chronic. How does anyone even begin to imagine what he had been subjected to, when your 5 year old when he told you he felt like dying?

Thirdly, a school is supposed to be a place where learning is fun, encouraging and engaging. What has happened runs entirely contrary to the motivations of why I enrolled my son into your school, where kids are subjected to the whims and fancies of whatever disciplinary rules and actions conjured up just to keep things in order.

Lastly, I sincerely believe fair punishments are necessary to maintain discipline in class; as such a simple verbal warning or even being made to stand for a period of time are certainly acceptable. But to outright humiliate a kid, made to wear a classmate’s hair clip in front of the class, is totally unnecessary and intolerable in a schooling environment.

What has happened to my son today is just one of many other episodes. A few other parents have also provided feedback regarding Ms Theresa threatening to poke children's foreheads with a pen or marker when they answered her questions wrongly. She will even hose the kid's mouth using a water spray if they were ever seen yawning in her class. She had in a few situations, tied up a kid's legs together because he swung them a little too obviously .

Just last week, my boy's classmate vomited in class and she had the audacity to make the kid clean up the vomit by herself, even though she was unwell.

I wish to seek answers as to why such teachers are allowed to recklessly instill fear in our young schooling children . Is someone without a sense of morality, responsibility and patience suitable for teaching kids?

We have since emailed the school in regards to the matter and arranged a meet-up with the directors and principal of the school. At the meeting we were interviewed and statements were taken for investigation. We also requested to review cctv footage of the incident that day. While the principal played the video on a laptop, I took out my phone and tried to record the footage as evidence. I was immediately stopped by one of the directors insisting that I can't do any recording, else they will allow us to continue reviewing the footage. I'm left with no choice but to comply as I needed to see what actually happened. After watching the video I completely understood why I wasn't allowed to take any videos of it. The look on my son's face and how much the teacher seemed to be enjoying herself will make any parent fly off the handle. Completely heart-broken, we left straight after the video.

Today on 8 July 2016, I heard from some other parents that the school is requesting parents of the children attending her class to vote if she should be allowed to stay on. With cold hard evidence of more than 4 cases of abuse I don't see why she still hang around. Many children are just too afraid to voice out their thoughts about what happened in class and as a consequence more than a handful of parents were kept in the dark. We truly hope no other child has to suffer her wrath.

Such teachers should never be allowed in the educational industry, especially at the pre-school level as we strongly believe that a child's character is significantly nurtured at this tender age.

* In 2015, there was an alleged case of child abuse at the Bukit Timah branch of Zoo-phonics by an experienced teacher. I can't help but wonder if Zoo-phonics has actually exercised due diligence in ensuring all their teachers adhere to the school's protocols.

This first appeared as a post on the Facebook wall of Ms Honey Swee on 8 July 2016. Do join in the discussion over there if you have thoughts to share.


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