Pre-school teacher suspended after parent complains about 'humiliating' punishment

Zoo-phonics pre-school at Serangoon Central.
Zoo-phonics pre-school at Serangoon Central.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ERIC CHEONG

SINGAPORE - A teacher has been suspended by a pre-school after a parent lodged a public complaint about her behaviour towards his son.

A Facebook post by Mr Eric Cheong on Saturday (July 9) accused the teacher at Zoo-phonics School's Serangoon Central branch, identified as "Ms Theresa", of making his son stand in front of the class for sporting long hair, and then putting a "girl hair clip" on the boy, "much to the amusement of all the other kids".

Mr Cheong added that the teacher threatened to repeat the action the next school day if the boy did not cut his hair by then.

He said that another teacher at the school told him about the incident, which happened during class on Tuesday.

In an e-mail statement to The Straits Times on Sunday, Zoo-phonics director Vincent Teoh said the teacher has been "temporarily suspended" pending an investigation, which includes gathering feedback from other parents.

Mr Cheong had alleged in his Facebook post that other parents have complained of inappropriate punishments by Ms Theresa.

Mr Teoh added that once the investigation is complete, the school will arrange a meeting between the teacher and Mr Cheong and his family.

Mr Teoh said the school "does not condone any form of ridiculing a child in front of the class as a form of punishment", and that teachers found to have done so will be counseled and reprimanded.

While the school does not have any regulations governing hairstyle, Mr Teoh noted that teachers "may have different expectations on what constitute a neat hair cut".

He said: "It is the parents' responsibility to ensure that their child has a reasonably neat hair cut. In the meeting, Mr Cheong did say he was not free when he was asked by the child to have his hair cut.

"He mentioned that through his son, he was aware that teacher Theresa has been asking his son to cut his hair."

Zoo-phonics School is a private enrichment centre registered with the Ministry of Education (MOE). It runs kindergarten and enrichment classes at franchise outlets island-wide.

According to Mr Teoh, the suspended teacher has received several letters of commendation from parents since joining the school in 2011. The "majority of the parents" want her to stay on despite the incident, he added.

In his post, which has been shared over 1,500 times, Mr Cheong said that a school should be a place where learning is "fun, encouraging and engaging", and was worried about the psychological impact of the incident on his son.

He wrote: "A simple verbal warning or even standing for a period of time is acceptable. But to humiliate a kid, made to wear a classmate's hair clip in front of the class, is totally unnecessary and intolerable in a school environment."