Forum: Better for all parties to work together to address bullying

Reading the recent news, "ITE to expel youth caught on video bullying fellow student" (March 18), was worrying.

I know there's always a possibility that my son - a 10-year-old boy with autism who attends Pathlight School - might be the next victim of bullying when he transits out of school into a diverse world where people might still have little understanding, patience and grace for people like my son and his unique ways.

But as much as I empathise with the victim and am grateful a swift and decisive move was made to oppose such abhorrent behaviour, could this not instead have been a teachable opportunity for the bully and his friends and family?

After all, expulsion is an irreversible mark on a young person's record in life, and can leave scars that are irreparable.

I am not suggesting that nothing be done, for clearly there is damage here that needs restoration. Yet I cannot help but wonder: Must the "punishment" always be punitive?

As a parent and also an educator, I understand the importance of sending clear signals to potential perpetrators and bullies. But isn't there another approach we can take?

One where all parties are brought together to figure out the best way to mitigate this incident, and one which shows what society's treatment of the disadvantaged can be.

The long-term hope is to build an inclusive society where we respect and even celebrate differences; where we seek first to understand before being understood. That is the far more noble, inclusive and sustainable goal to strive for.

But how can we reach such a goal when we choose each time to "bandage the wound" quickly and move on, case closed?

What are we really signalling to society at large when we forgo golden opportunities like this to teach ourselves and our future generations a better, more inclusive way?

I know this decision the Institute of Technical Education made was not easy, but I hope there is still time to redress this - for the victim, the bully, and the greater good of our society.

Kelvin Seah Lee Nguon

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