Probe into alleged improper touch at childcare centre

Matter involves two six-year-olds; video of girl's parents confronting staff goes viral

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) is investigating an incident involving two six-year-old children, where a boy allegedly touched a girl inappropriately at a childcare centre run by the PAP Community Foundation (PCF) last Tuesday.

The girl had reported that a boy at the Sparkletots Preschool in Taman Jurong had touched her inappropriately, and the centre's staff immediately notified the parents of both children, the PCF said, adding that it has been investigating the matter.

A child psychologist and teacher have been assigned to counsel the children, and the boy's parent has agreed not to send him to the centre for the time being.

"We deeply regret the incident and fully sympathise with the parents in their distress. Our top priority is the well-being of our young children," the PCF said.

"Based on the findings and recommendations of the child psychologists, PCF will take the necessary follow-up action."

PRIORITY FOR KIDS' WELL-BEING

We deeply regret the incident and fully sympathise with the parents in their distress. Our top priority is the well-being of our young children. Based on the findings and recommendations of the child psychologists, PCF will take the necessary follow-up action.

PCF STATEMENT

The PCF is also liaising with MSF, which confirmed it is investigating the matter.

According to a Facebook post by a parent of the girl, the boy allegedly put his hand under the girl's skirt during an afternoon nap session, and admitted to doing so on being questioned.

"My girl is now feeling so frightened and traumatised," the post said.

When contacted, the principal declined to comment.

A video showing a confrontation purportedly between the girl's parents and the PCF staff outside the school on Friday was taken by the girl's father and uploaded on YouTube. It was viewed more than 72,000 times.

The minimum age of criminal responsibility in Singapore is seven, but children below 12 years of age are not considered to have committed an offence if they are judged to be too immature to understand the consequences of their actions.

Dr Raymond Cheong from the Children/Youth Learning and Counselling Clinic said that teachers and parents have an important role to play in educating children on the differences and boundaries for boys and girls.

"No child is born a sexual predator," he said.

Ms Jane Mayo, 51, a teacher at preschool Little Bunnies The Outdoor Classroom finds it hard to believe that the intentions of a six-year-old boy would be deliberately sexual.

"The actions of children can often be misinterpreted by adults. Children are naturally curious and this is how they learn," she said.

Father of three Sue Bing Hao said that he was shocked by the incident, and worries about the safety of his four-year-old daughter, who attends pre-school.

But Ms Nasrin Sulthana, 30, an administrator whose four-year-old daughter attends the Sparkletots Preschool in Taman Jurong, remains unfazed. She trusts that her daughter is in safe hands, she told The Straits Times.

"This is the first time a case like this has happened and I am sure the school will be more careful in future," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2016, with the headline 'Probe into alleged improper touch at childcare centre'. Print Edition | Subscribe