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School CP - May 2009

Corpun file 21299


The New Paper, Singapore, 3 May 2009

BULLY, GIRLY, stop it, stop it

New students warned to avoid bully group

Bullies publicly caned for taunting boy for his 'girly voice' at popular S'pore school

By Liew Hanqing, Pearly Tan and Audrey Tan

THEIR reputation precedes them.

In this popular boys' school, there is a group so notorious that new students hear of them even before they meet them.

But this group of Secondary3 boys landed themselves in trouble recently for taunting, mocking and intimidating a Sec 1 boy from the same school.

For bullying their junior, three from the group of eight older boys were publicly caned last week.

The incident was confirmed by the school's principal on Tuesday.

He told The New Paper that the three older boys had picked on the younger boy 'because of his (the younger boy's) voice.'

The principal did not elaborate.

The younger boy, he said, was unhurt.

He added that the boys had a history of disciplinary problems, but declined to elaborate, saying they deserved 'a second chance'.

He said: 'We would like them to be able to move on. They have already been punished.'

The three students were caned in front of Sec 1, 2 and 3 students on 20 Apr.

When The New Paper spoke to students who knew of the incident, there were some conflicting accounts.

Some students claimed the victim was 'physically handled' by the seniors. Others said it was 'more serious than that'.

But no one could provide the exact details.

The school, however, rubbished these claims.

The principal, who declined to provide the details, insisted that there was no physical contact. He added that no one was physically hurt in the incident.

Most of the students we spoke to said they knew a group of Sec 3 boys had been publicly caned.

All the students spoke on condition of anonymity.

Said a Sec 4 student: 'The students who were caned are quite well-known in school. There are about eight students in their clique.'

He said the group had previously got into trouble for smoking and for being caught in possession of cigarettes.

He added that he had heard from schoolmates about the public caning, but did not witness it, as only students from Sec 1 to Sec 3 were present then.

A Sec 3 student, who witnessed the caning, said the students present were told only that the group was being punished for 'misbehaving'.

A Sec 1 student said the group was known for picking on younger boys in the school.

He said: 'I heard about them on my first few days of school. I saw a group of 'bengs' and a senior told me not to provoke them. I also heard that they pick their targets, and once you're a target, they may bully you outside school.'

In this case, they chose to pick on a particular Sec 1 boy, who, according to his peers, is effeminate.

Said a Sec 4 student: 'I don't know the victim personally, but he's quite well-known. Most of us have heard of him.' He described the younger boy as being 'sissy' and 'flamboyant', adding that he seems like a loner.

A Sec 1 student, who also knew of the incident, agreed that the younger boy usually kept to himself.

He said: 'He's very girly and is always alone. Everyone knows him but he doesn't really talk much to anyone at all. He's not very sociable.'

Asked why public caning was chosen as punishment if the bullies had not been physically violent, the school principal replied: 'Public caning is for educative purposes.'

The principal added that both the younger boy and the group of older boys have been counselled by the school counsellor.

He had also spoken with the boys' parents and considered the issue closed.

He claimed that the Sec 1 boy was 'not traumatised'.

Commenting on the incident, a discipline master from another boys' school said caning is usually used as a punishment of last resort.

He told The New Paper: 'We usually start off by counselling or warning students, but we may have to resort to caning if the student is recalcitrant.'

He said caning is usually reserved for students who commit serious offences, such as repeated theft, assault and gangsterism.

He said: 'For first-time offences, we usually don't cane because it does not contribute to (the students') rehabilitation. We only do it when we have exhausted all other means of punishment.

'In that case, caning would also serve as a deterrent to other students from committing the same offence.'

'Too harsh'

Mr Mark Richman, 54, who has a son in Sec 2 in the school involved, said he had heard about the group even before his son transferred to the school this year.

He said: 'I heard that some older boys were going around terrorising younger students. I told my son not to be scared, and not to provoke them.'

He added, however, that he felt caning the students was 'too harsh'.

He said he felt counselling would be a more effective way to get through to the boys.

'It could be that the boys felt left out or marginalised,' he said.

Copyright 2005 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.

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