“Under seven, nothing can be done,” repeated a father, over and over again to the police officer who was called to the front of a pre-school centre at Jurong. The police officer had subtly threatened him that if he and his wife do not stop making a nuisance in front of the centre run by the PAP Community Foundation (PCF), the police would have to arrest him under the Public Order Act.
What kind of injustice compelled ordinary parents to turn up at the PCF pre-school asking for justice to be done?
In this particular case, the alleged molestation of their 6-year-old daughter by her male classmate at the pre-school that she studies at and how the school is handling the case.
Molestation at PCF pre-school
According to the mother* who supposedly wrote the lengthy post on social media, her younger daughter who attends the childcare at PCF Sparkletots preschool located at Taman Jurong, Block 161, was molested in school during her afternoon nap.
The daughter is said to have just enrolled in the pre-school earlier this year in January.
It is said that the boy who molested her was her six year-old male classmate and the incident took place at 1pm on Monday after the teacher instructed the students in the childcare to take their afternoon nap.
According to the mother's version of what happened, the boy snuck up to the six year-old girl and placed his hand inside her school skirt (with shorts attached) while she was sound asleep and started to caress her private parts. This woke the daughter up. She tried to stop the boy from touching her any further but the boy continued.
The daughter tried to look around for help but no teacher was in sight and it was only after the housekeeper of the childcare centre appeared that the boy stopped what he was doing.
According to the mother, the daughter's classmate saw what transpired and can stand as witness to the incident. It is also said that the boy admitted to his deed after being questioned.
The mother was called up by the school at 5pm that day about the daughter's incident.
Disappointing reaction by the pre-school and its principal
The mother noted in her post that the principal and the school's response was disappointing. According to the mother, the principal, Ms Carole See, merely informed her that an incident had happened to her daughter and the school had already done their part by calling up the boy's mother. The mother of the boy told the principal to beat her son and was said to have claimed that she had a headache and could not be bothered with the incident.
It was said that there had not been a word of apology from the school.
The mother wrote, “The principal just give me the feeling that she just want to push the responsibility away.”
The mother was told by the principal that since the school is not allowed to beat the boy, the school can only keep the boy away from their daughter and close the case.
“Personally, I feel that bringing the boy away from my daughter and putting him with other children is never going to solve the issue. Sooner or later there will be another victim if this is not resolved properly,” wrote the mother.
The nonchalant reaction of the principal irked the mother greatly. After the incident, the principal apparently stated to the mother that she was on medical leave and had more important matters to attend to at the other childcare centres.
The mother exclaimed in her post, "What the hell, are there anymore much serious case in other childcare centre than this at the moment?" She also wrote: "Damn piss off. The principal seems like she can't be bothered with it."
Police suggested withdrawing daughter from childcare
When the mother went to seek advice from the police, she was advised to just withdraw her daughter from the school and place her in another childcare.
The mother questioned the rational of this proposition: “Changing childcare means need to fork out thousands of dollars. And why the offender continue in the school when the victim have to fork out money and change childcare? Where is the fairness? Even the police officer also sympathise with my situation and advised me to go to the school today and put pressure on the school.”
Change in reaction when incident about to be posted on social media
The mother shared that it was how the case was handled that led her to posting her story on social media.
According to the mother, when the school heard that she was going to post her write-up on the case on social media so that higher authorities could help her, the principal immediately called her and asked to meet up with her.
The mother wrote, "But it's too late. Because you are too irresponsible as a principal. You lack the quality to be the principal of so many PCF childcare centre. I wondered how many hundreds or thousands of young children are been entrusted to you, they safety and welfare are definitely in danger."
She said that she believes the principal to be an assistant or some kind of grassroots leader for PAP Minister, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
Confrontation at the pre-school centre
When the parents turned up at the pre-school to demand the school take further action, police were called to the scene; it is likely they were called by the pre-school.
The mother, visibly agitated, said at the start of the video to the female police officer, "I am also very traumatised by it ok? (Speaking in dialect) "Don't dare to come out."
The police were constantly asking the father to calm down the mother.
The father asks the police, "You know what suddenly make us burst out or not?" He said that, at a minimum, their request was for the school to temporarily suspend the boy while the police investigated the case.
The mother is in the background, speaking to the pre-school staff and saying that she wants an answer immediately.
The father in the video kept repeating the same narrative, "Below seven can molest, nevermind one, this is what they are saying. Police cannot do anything."
Under the Penal Code Chapter 4 Section 82, it states "Nothing is an offence which is done by a child under seven years of age."
The mother is visibly distressed, at one point saying that she wants to kill the principal, and is trying to hold back her tears while saying, "Is that right or not" to the female police officer.
According to the father in the video, the school has said that they have done their best, that they will continue with school as usual, and that they cannot suspend the boy.
The police, seemingly frustrated at the parents' unwillingness to compromise, not-so-subtly threatened the father by saying, "Let me make this clear to you, if you are going to create a scene, I need to bring you back for disorderly behavior."
The father, detecting the clear threat of arrest, asked, "So suspending the kid, is that possible? I just want to suspend the kid until investigations are over."
Police negotiate for parents
The male police officer replied by asking if the father is able to calm his wife down because he feels that the mother is out of control.
The father replied, "Through the whole thing, she is the calmest, she don't shout, she don't make noise, now she burst into tears."
The police officer replied, "I also need you to understand there are certain procedures that we have to do."
The father questioned, "If this is your daughter, what would you do? Tell me now."
The police officer gave a non-answer by saying, "From the start till the end, I know there are certain things I can do but I am working things out."
The father went on to say, "My girl see the boy get frightened, she start to have some abnormal behavior. This is the minimum, either suspend the boy or to have the boy be transferred to another school."
The police officer then went in to the pre-school to try to seek a compromise for the two parties.
Father thanks parent who was together with him
In the video, another father was with the girl's father, supporting the father in his discussion with the police officer.
While the police officer was in the pre-school negotiating for a settlement, the girl's father said to the other father, "Thank you for being around, I need supportive parents, if not nobody around, they heck care you, totally push me away like that. Now they see you and more people around, they try to solve the thing more."
School says did not expect a six-year-old to commit molest
The girl's father said to the other father that the teacher is very remorseful because she knows that the school is at fault and the principal is not handling the situation well.
The reason that the school gave was that they didn't expect a six-year-old to commit molest. The father exclaimed, "So you don't expect, you can leave the whole class empty?"
"So you don't expect them to play with fire, if a fire broke out and they burn to death. Now I am unlucky, I am the only one, you find it easier to press it down on me. Now if everyone is burnt to death.. you dare to say that or not?"
According to the father, "The principal look as if she did not want to say anything, and then she said that she will let them know."
"My wife actually don't want to like that one, she cannot already. She keep quiet for four, five days already. I first time burst out already, she keep telling me cannot, can talk everything properly."
Settlement offered by pre-school to suspend boy for one week only
A while after the police met up with the principal, the pre-school came to a decision to temporarily suspend the boy for a week.
The police officer speaking on behalf of the pre-school, said, "The daughter and the boy will be separated. The daughter will not see him unless they meet along the corridor."
The father sarcastically said into the video: "Now is to put the danger into other people lar, my daughter is safe. I be selfish, I put the danger to other people."
"Because of my own daughter's safety I have to agree, I want to let the public know that your daughter is in danger already."
Parents do not wish to pursue case with six year-old-boy
When the mother decided to go down to the police station to seek advice from the police on Tuesday, she told the police that she did not want to pursue anything against the six year-old boy, because she felt it is the parent's fault and that it was also caused by the school's negligence.
The father also said in the video, "The boy admitted, he actually don't know anything, don't really blame the boy now, is the school and the parent."
It is said that the boy is living with his grandmother and grandfather and the father cannot be found while his mother lives in a rental flat.
According to the father, the school had requested that the parents not let the grandfather and grandmother know about the incident as the school said that they do not want to hurt them.
The father said, "Father cannot be found, mother don't want to care, and the school do this way. The police say under seven cannot arrest."
"So I lower my limit to suspend the boy, no worse I can go already," said the father.
Regret over not pursuing earlier incident
Citing another incident where her daughter had her glasses damaged by her classmates, the parent regretted not pursuing the incident as the principal of the centre handled the situation in the same manner.
“Really regretted it. Because if I have put lots of pressure on the school, today this molest case might not have happen to my daughter. Because I am sure the school would have make better arrangement if I had assert huge pressure on the school.”
The mother wrote in her post, "My girl is now feeling so frightened and traumatised. She even voiced out that she is so scared that it will happen again. She doesn't want to nap in the school with the boy's presence because she is afraid he would anytime crawl over to touch her again. Its so devastating to hear this from her... Where is the justice? And members of the public please help me by telling me how can I seek justice."
Ministry of Social and Family Development aware of the matter
Ministry of Social and Family Development has gotten wind of the story and replied to the parent on her Facebook page. It wrote that the ministry is aware of the video posted and is working with the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) to look into the matter.
TOC has written to PCF to seek their response on this matter. PCF has yet to respond to TOC on queries about the last incident involving a PCF centre showing students bowing to an image of Lee Kuan Yew.
*NOTE: It is presumed that the writer of the post is the mother because the father is insistent in the video for the police to take action against the boy, while the writer of the post mentioned that there is no intention of filing charges against the boy.