From ‘Ruling may instil fear in teachers’, 22 Nov 14, ST Forum
(Trent Ng Yong En): A COURT has ordered a primary school teacher to do 60 hours of community service for forcibly dragging an 11-year-old boy with behavioural issues out of class for not following instructions (“Teacher who mistreated boy gets community service”; yesterday). While the teacher’s actions could have been more appropriate, given that the boy suffered from neuro-developmental disorders, the court ruling will likely instil fear in teachers when dealing with insubordinate students.
The teacher may have used force to drag the pupil out of class, but how could this sensibly constitute “criminal force”? Section 350 of the Penal Code reads: “Whoever intentionally uses force to any person, without that person’s consent… knowing it to be likely that by the use of such force he will illegally cause injury, fear or annoyance to the person… is said to use criminal force to that other.”
The court seems to have taken a broad interpretation of this provision to find the teacher’s act of disciplining the pupil amounting to causing “injury, fear or annoyance”. This interpretation, taken to its extreme, could cover all acts of school discipline where a teacher or discipline master physically handles an errant student in the slightest way.
Clearly, this is not a school culture we want to encourage, where insubordination is condoned and educators live in fear of the students and their parents. While the law may have decided that educators must take care when disciplining students, such that their acts do not amount to criminal force, what should be discussed is whether educators should be given more discretion to discipline their students, so long as it does not amount to a gross violation of their bodily integrity – for example, slapping, hitting, or throwing projectiles.
If you’re a teacher resorting to physical force to keep an unruly child in his place, you’re accused of assault. Will the old lady who pummelled a helpless child on the MRT with an UMBRELLA be slapped with the same charge of ‘criminal force’ then? Or what about an angry father slapping someone else’s boy to avenge his own bullied kid? If a parent running out of ideas wrestled his own nuisance kid to the ground in public, few would intervene. If it’s a teacher doing the same in the classroom on the other hand, we demand for his dismissal. Today, teachers are supposed to rule not with an iron fist, but a benevolent caress. You can no longer discipline a child for ‘his own good’ at the expense of your ‘own job’. The problem worsens when parents are not doing theirs. Granted, the child had neurological issues, but it would have been the same outcome had it been a child without ADHD/autism or any other illness that explains disruptive behaviour.
If these same charges were applied to teachers in the past, we would have at least half the education workforce doing ‘community service’ for slapping or spanking rowdy kids for ruining class, the only difference being they’re not on Ritalin or other psychostimulants to keep their ‘naughtiness’ at bay. My own primary school teacher walloped my knuckles with a wooden ruler and nobody was around to call the cops for this blatant act of physical abuse, nor did anyone send her away for 60 hours to do the janitor’s job. When I told my parents they simply laughed and added fuel to the fire by saying ‘Obi Good’. I mean, it’s not like I went home in crutches, an arm in a sling, or had one eye dangling out of its bloody socket. Thanks Mom and Dad, for letting a stranger half beat me to death because you love me too much to do it yourselves.
Children with ‘issues’ in school these days are protected by euphemisms and medical jargon. You’re not ‘naughty’ but ‘hyperactive’ or suffering from ADHD. If you’re the aggressive sort, you’ve got ‘oppositional defiant disorder’. Sometimes this outcry over physical duress may lead to otherwise capable leaders losing their positions. 10 years ago, the principal of Nan Chiau High stepped down after parents called the police on him for hitting their lying daughter with a SOFT COVER BOOK. If this ADHD child abuser were otherwise an excellent educator capable of bringing out the best PSLE scores in the school, it would be a loss not just the ‘punishee’, but the ENTIRE class, if he quits because his reputation as a bully who exercises CRIMINAL force has been cemented by overprotective parents who can’t do anything about their own unruly children themselves.
But the fact is you don’t even need to touch the flesh of a problem child to get into trouble with the police, or hate your job forever. You could get hauled up for questioning if you CUT HIS HAIR, or if you even say to a kid: ‘I don’t want to see your face!’, which amounts to ‘verbal abuse’. One teacher resigned after being accused by a rich and influential parent (who contributed to school funds, naturally) for abusing Daddy’s Boy. She merely ‘reprimanded’ him for BREAKING FLOWER POTS (Time for corporal punishment in schools, May 6 2014, ST Forum). Don’t say I didn’t warn you if Junior grows up to be a serial vandal.
In 2003, a RJC GP teacher verbally crushed a student for sloppy work and dramatically tore up his essay in front of class.
Not sure what happened to the kid, or the teacher after this. Although it gives some idea of what a horrible subject GP is, it’s also a masterclass in breaking down a student or his ‘insolence, laziness and apathy’ and being a ‘sly crafty old fox’. The insult of all classroom insults. Maybe parents should take notes about disciplining their own child, rather than write complaint emails to principals whenever their kid gets pinched in the ears, or being told to get out of class in a tone and volume beyond that of a gentle whisper.