Education minister Ong Ye Kung has personally stepped in to address a case of bullying in Mee Toh School, after serious allegations of racist abuse have been made publicly.
Ong took to Facebook late on Tuesday night, March 10, to air his concerns, saying that he was "dismayed" and "troubled" to learn about a bullying case involving Primary 5 students in the school located in Punggol.
This is Ong's post in full, which came out at 11:20pm:
I was dismayed and troubled when I read about the bullying case at Mee Toh School.
A group of students had picked on a Malay classmate, and wrote her nasty notes.
This is bullying, is wrong and cannot be tolerated anywhere, especially in schools. Moreover, it goes against some very fundamental values of what we stand for as a society. 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.
The school will ensure that the students understand the seriousness of their actions, and will follow up with appropriate disciplinary actions. Our values of kindness, respect for others, cohesiveness as a multi-racial society must be inculcated from a young age, with the collective effort of families, schools and community. This should be a lesson for all students to learn from.
How bullying allegations were made
Ong's post was short on details but the case he mentioned blew up on Twitter after it was posted on Friday, March 6.
The tweet was written by the victim's elder sibling, who claimed that her younger sister had been bullied repeatedly in school.
By Wednesday, March 11, 3am, the tweet had been retweeted more than 4,700 times.
What the bullying incident was about
The following content contains highly distressing descriptions and images pertaining to school bullying in Singapore. Viewer discretion is advised.
The first tweet in the thread said the victim, who is in Primary 5, was called names by her classmates and had a series of handwritten notes thrown into her face on Thursday, March 5, as a "birthday present".
Not the first time
The tweet also claimed it was not the first time the Primary 5 student had been picked on, with previous noticeable instances having already occurred.
For example, the victim allegedly had her uniform coloured with markers and the abuse carried on online.
The tweet said:
this is not the first time she has been bullied, she ever came home w her uniform vandalised w markers, being called names & cyber bullied
The thread identified the victim as Malay, and a subsequent tweet revealed that "racist remarks" have been directed at the victim over the years.
One of the tweets in the thread subsequently revealed the names of the perpetrators.
What the other tweets claim
The second tweet in the thread by the elder sibling was directed at the parents of the other children, calling them to step in:
I’m in f**king tears, I can’t throw hands at an 11 year old but let me catch this child’s parents, i will make them regret their child ever did sh*t to my sister.
The third tweet in the thread initially identified the school as a Buddhist school without naming names, and called out the extent of the attacks over the years:
My sister goes to a buddhist school (its the nearest pri sch to my house & my other sis went to the same sch so its easier for her to get in) theres only a handful of malays in the school & the amount of racists remarks my sisters has received thru out the years, i’m sick of it.
The fourth tweet accused the school of sitting on its hands:
I’ve emailed the school, turned up for her parent teacher conference to confront her teachers about this, i’ve emailed MOE too. But what have they done? Nothing. This keeps happening & i’m sick of seeing my sisters cry
The fifth tweet claimed the victim stood up for herself but was instead punished in school and even made to apologised to the bullies:
My sister stood up for herself one time & out of anger, she scolded the bullies vulgarities & GUESS WHAT? My parents got called up asking them & my sister to publically APOLOGISE to the bullies. damn where this energy at when falisya was the one being bullied?
The sixth tweet eventually identified the school by name and its location:
The school’s name is MEE TOH SCHOOL in punggol. Send emails to this school, make it aware to them that this is NO JOKE.
One of the final tweets in the thread even claimed the victim's mother had approached the school but was told changing classes was not an option, but changing school is:
Just to add something my mom shared w me, she has approached one of falisya’s teacher when she was bullied before to have her class changed. Her teacher said that it was not possible however my mom can consider changing her school :-)
Extent of bullying in school
In subsequent tweets, the extent of the alleged bullying was revealed in a series of text messages between the victim and her elder sibling.
The victim said she was called "black dustbin" by her classmates, as the school had black dustbins outside the lifts.
In another series of text messages, the victim revealed that she was "crying" while reading tweets, presumably referring to the online abuse she was also receiving.
The victim then said she eats in the toilet during recess as she did not want to socialise and even though she knew it was "dirty" to do so.
Speaker of Parliament responded to tweets
Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin responded to the bullying allegations via Twitter on Saturday evening, March 7, a day after the tweets went up and started gaining traction.
Tan had apparently sent a private message to the victim's sister.
But his message was construed to be unhelpful.
The series of tweets back and forth appear to be no longer available.
Tan eventually took down the tweets he exchanged with the student’s sibling, which he told Mothership he initially sent out of concern for the student, whose sensitive experiences were being played out publicly.
This, he said, was following his referral of the case to the MOE for further assistance, adding that he preferred the sensitive matter to be resolved privately among the involved parties.
Mothership.sg has reached out to Mee Toh School for comment following the release of Ong's Facebook post statement.
We will update this article if and when we receive a reply.
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