18 year-old Ms Cheryl Tan is suing her former school, Raffles Girls School, because she felt the school authorities did not protect her from school bullies, which she says led to her withdrawal from the school and her decision to study overseas. She wants the school to pay for her pain and suffering and also the $220,000 it cost to continue her studies at the prestigious Wells Cathedral School in England. She is currently completing her A levels there.
Ms Tan fell out with members of her CCA, the Chinese Orchestra, when she was in Secondary 3 in 2012. She was appointed the secretary and student conductor in the CCA. Ms Tan claims that this caused the other members to become jealous. They “ostracized and bullied” her for about a year from July 2012.
Ms Tan and her parents claim that they repeatedly sought help from the school regarding the bullying, and that the abuse had caused her eczema to worsen, causing the skin on her hand to crack and affecting her ability to play instruments. She sought treatment at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital for this condition.
Despite seeking help from the school, the bullying persisted and Ms Tan left the orchestra in March and withdrew from RGS in July 2013.
A spokesman for RGS denied the claims.
RGS’ defense lawyer, Senior Counsel Thio Shen Yi dismissed the accusations of Ms Tan as frivolous.
The school found no instance of bullying after investigating Ms Tan’s complaints. The defense pointed out that RGS staff had frequently engaged Ms Tan’s parents over their concerns. The school policy defines bullying as involving “hurting, frightening or intimidating others using power of strength” while cyber bullying includes the sending of hateful messages.
The defense also claims that Ms Tan had wanted all along to study overseas and had taken active steps towards this even before the supposed bullying.
Ms Tan, it was pointed out, was never told she was going to be a student conductor. Instead, she was chosen to attend a conducting course with another student. The CCA’s teachers-in- charge were considering the possibility of having two student conductors to cope with a larger number of events in 2013.
The CCA’s student exco was not told of this however, and on its own, voted for the other student. Ms Tan found out about this and it led to her parents becoming involved. According to the defence, some students in the exco then ended up feeling that the school was only considering a second conductor to give in to Ms Tan’s demands.