"'Expelled' for messy hair - The New Paper 24 Feb 2010
FOR three days, Anita Liew and her parents were distraught and puzzled because they thought she had been expelled from school - over a few stray strands of hair.
Her mother, Madam Wong Kan May, 44, was first told that Anita had been expelled over her 'unruly hair' after she had failed to pin the strands from her ponytail neatly.
She was told to find another school for Anita, who is doing her N levels this year.
It was only after appealing to meet the principal that she was told it was a 'misunderstanding', and that Anita had only been disciplined, and not expelled.
The principal apologised and Anita, 15, was then allowed to continue attending the school, Henderson Secondary."
This is a strange case, especially happening in super efficient and effective Singapore. Especially in the world best educational system where other countries come and learn from!!
Lessons for me are:
1. the Principal was wrong. He apologized but refused to return call to the many calls by The New Paper on what happened and why did the poor student has to suffer this traumatic experience of 'being expelled' without appeal or no proper communication to her parents? Instead he sent a fax to explain the reasons for the 'misunderstanding' citing school rules, etc;
2. it is good that the Principal has apologized but it is puzzling why and how the misunderstanding came about. Also, from the news report, the staff of the school was adamant that the young student had been expelled and insisted that the Principal was busy and had no time to meet the mother when she rushed down to find that her daughter was crying outside the school office and that she was 'expelled'! This clearly created anxiety and nervousness and stress for all involved. How could the school's principal and staff behaved in this high-handed manner? Can we called them: bullies?;
3. the MOE (Ministry of Education) seems to have cleaned its hands from this affair as it let the school dealt with it. When a leader in an educational institution made mistakes, the MOE has to investigate and find out what exactly happened and then mete out the proper punishment. It needs to look beyond the surface and realized that the manner in which the student was handled bordered on 'bullying'! We have too many people in positions of authority merely apologizing for mistakes made BUT not asking for punishment lately! This cannot go on as it will encourage the wrong behaviors of - as long as I apologized, never mind the damages done, I will be alright!!
I am not advocating vindictive punishment. However, it would have been great had the principal asked for punishment when the MOE washed its hands so as to set a new standard of expectation from leaders who made honest mistakes. Take responsibility as well as ask for punishment!