Thursday, 12 March 2020

Bullying incident at Mee Toh School wrong and cannot be tolerated: Education Minister Ong Ye Kung

Minister's comments come after case involving Mee Toh School pupils goes viral
By Hariz Baharudin, The Straits Times, 12 Mar 2020

A case of bullying at Mee Toh School - that has gone viral on social media - involving Primary 5 pupils "is wrong and cannot be tolerated anywhere", said Education Minister Ong Ye Kung.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Mr Ong said that he was "dismayed and troubled" after finding out that a group of pupils at the school had picked on a Malay classmate and written her "nasty notes".

"This is bullying, (it) is wrong and cannot be tolerated anywhere, especially in schools," he said.

The case first came to light when Twitter user @4YSLZ posted last Friday that her sister's classmates had thrown some notes at her.

She uploaded photos of these notes, which had insults on them, such as "you are Dumbo the elephant" and "you look so ugly and you really turn me down, you make puke".

The Twitter user wrote: "My heart broke today. It was my sister's birthday yesterday and one of her classmates threw this to her face as a 'birthday present'."

The post has been shared more than 4,000 times.

According to the Twitter user, this is not the first case of bullying involving her sister. She said her sister's uniform had been scribbled on with markers in the past.

She alleged that her sister, who is one of "only a handful of Malays" in the school in Punggol, has also been called other names and has been cyber bullied.



In his post, Mr Ong said that the school will ensure that pupils understand the seriousness of their actions and will follow up with appropriate disciplinary actions.

The incident goes against "very fundamental values of what we stand for as a society", Mr Ong said.

"It does not matter whether the students might have done it out of mischief or that they are only Primary 5 students; the fact is that the victim felt that it was a racist act, and that makes it even more unacceptable," he added.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, a spokesman for Mee Toh said that the school has met the student's mother, and that it does not condone bullying, including racist remarks.

He added that "appropriate disciplinary actions" will be taken.

Children bully one another for various reasons, including differences in race, gender and physical appearance, according to Singapore Children's Society (SCS) chief executive Alfred Tan.

Clinical psychologist Carol Balhetchet told ST that bullying at such a young age can be traumatising to children, especially if they look and feel they are different from their peers.

"The last thing a child that age needs is an attack on their personality or their physical look, as it diminishes the self-confidence they are only starting to build," said Dr Balhetchet, who has worked with children for two decades.

National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser made similar points, saying that apart from counselling both the victim and the bullies, the school should also continually reinforce that bullying is unacceptable.

"Teachers should make it a point to 'look out' for their students, and be sensitive to tell-tale signs like missing school, looking miserable and having no friends."

SCS' Mr Tan said that schools, teachers and students all have a role to play in combating the problem of bullying.

"Teachers and students should be educated to respond to any bullying incident and support the child who is bullied. Schools also play an important role to reach out and support the bully, with the intention to teach the bully positive life skills in relating to peers."







































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