Boy, 3, allegedly locked in dark room and shouted at by pre-school teachers; police investigating


SINGAPORE: A three-year-old boy enrolled in a pre-school in the north-east was allegedly locked in a dark room and hit, pinched and screamed at by his teachers on more than one occasion, The Straits Times has learnt.

The boy’s mother said she lodged a police report – seen by ST – on Feb 26. She added that the boy had been attending the pre-school for more than a year, but it was only in January 2024 that she noticed the child was becoming more and more afraid of going to school.

In the evenings, meltdowns and nightmares were becoming more frequent, and he was also engaging in violent behaviour like pinching and “chopping” others, she said.

On the night of Feb 22, her son confided in her, saying his teachers had locked him in a dark room the day before, and that it had been punishment for playing with water in the school’s bathroom. He said was alone in the room, but it is unclear for how long he was confined.

The mother said she reported the incident to the school on Feb 23.

A few nights later, the boy told the mother that the teachers had pinched him the day he was locked in the room.

On Feb 26, the school management asked her to watch closed-circuit TV footage of her son being locked in the dark room by teachers on Feb 21.

Speaking to ST, she said: “Two teachers took turns to open the door to shout at him and intimidate him as he stood there crying.”

Neither the school nor the parents can be named, as it could lead to the identity of young children being made public, which is not allowed under the Children and Young Persons Act.

In an e-mail circular sent to parents on Feb 26 and seen by ST, the pre-school’s director said the school was alerted to a recent case of “child mismanagement” and was “taking action to address this matter”.

The school has reported the incident to the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) and is fully cooperating with investigations, said the director. ECDA is a government agency that oversees kindergartens and childcare centres in Singapore.

The director added that three teachers involved in the incident have been suspended to “ensure the integrity of the investigation process and to prevent further occurrences”.

The pre-school will also bring in a counsellor to provide help to both children and staff who are affected by this incident, the director said.

The father of another child in the pre-school said he spoke to his four-year-old son after he received the circular. He asked the boy if he had experienced abuse like the three-year-old.

That was when his son said that he, too, had been locked in a dark room by teachers, and hit on the hand.

His wife then put up a post on social media about what had happened to the boy.

Soon after, the father said a WhatsApp group was created for parents, several of whom said their children had been subjected to similar abuse.

The WhatsApp group now has 15 parents in it, he added.

The father said: “A lot of the parents said they are seeing their children develop behaviours such as beating themselves, screaming in the middle of the night and being afraid of admitting they had done anything wrong in fear of punishment.

“Since the start of February, my son has also started crying because he doesn’t want to go to school, and has grown more timid.”

The father said, so far, he has not lodged a police report, but he is considering taking legal action against the school.

The three-year-old and four-year-old have since been taken out of the pre-school.

In response to queries, the police said a report linked to the pre-school has been lodged and investigations are under way.

ST has contacted the pre-school and ECDA for comment. - The Straits Times/ANN

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Singapore , abuse , pre-school , dark , room

   

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