A MOTHER has lodged a police report after her 12-year-old son's teacher cut his hair an hour before his PSLE oral exam last Thursday.
The mother, Madam Serene Ong, is outraged that the teacher did this just before a crucial exam, that it was done without her knowledge - and that it ruined the boy's $60 haircut.
She claimed the teacher - Ms Belinda Cheng of Unity Primary - also threatened to deduct marks from the boy's exam if he refused to have his hair cut.
Yesterday, the school's principal, Mrs Jasmail Singh Gill, agreed with Madam Ong that the teacher had no business cutting the boy's hair.
But, she said, Primary 6 pupils had been warned before about sporting long hair, and Ms Cheng had the right intentions. "The teacher cut the boys' hair as she wanted them to look neat," said Mrs Gill.
Ms Cheng, who had also cut the hair of two other 12-year-old boys that day, did not want to comment. But Madam Ong said the teacher apologised to her and the three pupils yesterday.
Madam Ong, 39, a sales manager, said she received a call from her son Ryan Ang at about 10am on the day of the exam. His oral exam was at 11am.
He was crying and told her that Ms Cheng, who is one of his form teachers, had cut his fringe and sideburns. He and the two other boys had been pulled up during a spot check for long hair.
"The teacher had no right to cut his hair," said Madam Ong.
"She showed me no respect by not telling me that she was going to cut his hair beforehand," she said. "Worse, she threatened to deduct his oral marks if he didn't agree to let her cut his hair. It was an hour before his PSLE oral exam. What if it had affected his performance?"
She said she was so upset she made a police report and complained to the Ministry of Education that night.
She said Ryan did not dare to step out of the house for two days "because he thought he looked funny".
Ms Cheng, she added, had also wasted the $60 she had spent on Ryan's hair just five days before the incident. He has been going to a hairstylist at Reds Hairdressing for several years. Madam Ong spent another $60 getting his hair restyled on Saturday.
She said the ministry told her to "forgive the teacher" and the police said she could seek legal advice. The ministry also told her on Thursday that marks would not be deducted for pupils' appearance during the exam.
A ministry spokesman yesterday said schools may formulate their own rules based on their needs, within given guidelines for school discipline.
Several principals contacted said that students sporting unkempt hair is a common problem they face. But they felt Ms Cheng's approach of just chopping it off was outdated.
"Doing this is like going back hundreds of years," said Dr Foo Suan Fong, principal of Dunman High. His students are given a warning and a deadline to get their hair cut. If they do not do so, the school will contact their parents, whom it regards as "our education partners".
Mrs Lee Hui Feng, principal of Nanyang Primary, held the same view. "We have to work closely with parents and reinforce the notion that their children's personal image is very important."