The Straits Times reported that a primary school teacher was sentenced to 60 hours of community service for using criminal force on a pupil last year:
“[The teacher] had been frustrated with the 11-year-old for entering the class despite being told to stand outside as punishment for being late. So he pulled the child, who was suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and dragged him all the way to the room next door. The incident took place at a top primary school in the east.
The court heard that around 10:30 am on July 2 last year, the boy and his mother had arrived at the school late, as he had not been feeling well. She waited a short distance away after leaving him standing outside his classroom, which was empty as the other pupils had not yet returned from morning assembly.
After leading the boy’s classmates back, the 36-year-old teacher asked him why he had been late. The boy remained silent. He told him to stand outside while his classmates entered. But the boy did not listen to his instructions. This was when the teacher, who pleaded guilty to using criminal force, committed the offence. The mother, who witnessed what had happened, immediately reported it to the vice-principal and lodged a police report later that day.”
Merriam-Webster defines “pull” as to hold onto and move (someone or something) in a particular direction, especially toward oneself and “drag” as to pull someone or something with effort. It is not clear, however, whether “pull” or “drag” was used in the police report or the prosecution’s documents to describe the teacher’s actions.
Two readers wrote to The Straits Times on 22 November to express their concerns over the matter. How are teachers supposed to enforce discipline?
When I was growing up, any pupil who was punished by his teacher, discipline master or principal would likely be given another round of punishment by his parents when they learned of his misdeeds.
Times have changed.
Back to the present: if a pupil defies his teacher, what should the teacher do — turn a blind eye, plead with him to obey — especially now that pupils are aware that the teacher may be charged for and found guilty of using criminal force?
Section 350 of the Penal Code (Cap. 224) says:
“Whoever intentionally uses force to any person, without that person’s consent, in order to cause the committing of any offence, or intending by the use of such force illegally to cause, or knowing it to be likely that by the use of such force he will illegally cause injury, fear or annoyance to the person to whom the force is used, is said to use criminal force to that other.”
Under what circumstances may a teacher legally cause fear or annoyance to his pupil without the pupil’s consent?
What does the Ministry of Education advise teachers to do when their pupils disobey their (presumably lawful) instructions?
What does the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education advise teachers to do?
What does the Singapore Teachers’ Union advise teachers to do?
Can teachers teach effectively if their pupils adopt the attitude that they can do their own thing and disregard their teachers’ instructions?
Should pupils with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or other behavioural conditions be allowed to study in mainstream schools if treating them differently from other pupils sends a wrong message to the other pupils, especially if the other pupils are too young or too immature to understand the reason for the different treatment?