Recently, the news that has caused much discussion and stir especially among the parent community is the case of teacher snipping off the hair of her student right before his PSLE Oral. The haircut apparently left the boy crying and possibly emotionally disturbed before an important examination. The student's mother lodged a police report and that was how it all came to public knowledge.
The general vibe I get from parents who heard about the news is mostly one of disapproval - Disapproval at the teacher for cutting off the student's hair, and disapproval at the mother for going so far as to make a police report.
I asked myself honestly how I would have dealt with the situation if I were the mother involved. I believe I will be very upset that my kid's hair had been cut without my knowledge, that's for sure, but would I lodge a police report for something like that? I seriously don't think I will.
A warning letter was issued by the school to the mother two days before the incident took place, and the mother claimed that she didn't get the letter because the son was dyslexic and naturally forgetful, so he forgot to show the letter to her. I guess perhaps the teacher thought she had fulfilled all righteousness by first issuing a verbal warning, then a written one, so she had all the rights to administer the punishment. But seriously, couldn't a phone call be made directly to the mother should the issue be that critical? That would have ensured that the mother was informed of the seriousness of the issue at hand, and it would then be the mother's responsibility to ensure that it's taken care of. Issuing a letter barely two days before the absolute deadline is likened to putting a first-aid band on an open wound of oozing blood and hoping that the bleeding will stop immediately.
Putting that aside though, if we talk about whether the teacher had the rights to cut off the student's hair, from the viewpoint of a mum, I don't think so. But if I put myself in the shoes of the teacher, I probably feel I had the right to, simply because all kinds of warnings had been issued and none heeded. After all, the school is an institution that instils discipline, and anyone who refuses to abide by the rules ought to be disciplined.
But while everyone's emotions are high because of the actions of the teacher and the mother, what continues to bug me are the ripple effects of this incident. I may be thinking a little too much here.
Don't they always have such storylines in movies? A serial killer, after murdering many women brutally, confessed that the reason why he always chose to kill female teachers, and would cut off their hair after he murdered them, was because as a kid, a female teacher had cut off his hair and hurt his pride real bad. The incident continued to haunt him through his childhood to adulthood, and left such a deep imprint in him that he became a warped man who hated female teachers. This may sound a little too far-fetched I admit, but the point I'm trying to put across is that we never know what kind of impact our actions leave on the little minds of kids. We may feel all justified and have every right to administer a punishment at that point in time, but always bear in mind the impact we are causing to the child psychologically, mentally and emotionally. It could be a long-lasting impact that will accompany the child to adulthood, and affects all his thoughts, attitudes and personality. Kind of scary, if you ask me. And I think this incident serves as a strong reminder to me as a parent who welds this power in my hand. How I use the power will directly affect my child and what kind of person she will grow up to be eventually.
On the other hand, what signal is the mother sending to her child? That it's okay to flaunt the school rules and ignore the teacher's warnings, because at the end of the day, your mother will make a police report and send all the teachers to jail? Sure enough, the child will know he will always have his mum standing behind him, but is that really what we want to teach our kids?
I can totally understand how anguished the mother must have felt, especially when the incident had to happen just an hour before such an important examination. I would too, I am sure. But how we react and handle a situation can really determine the outcome. I can only pray that when my turn comes to handle such a delicate situation, I will have the wisdom and right frame of mind to make a right decision.