Teacher Shares Account of being an Upskirt Victim and How Her School Covered-Up the Sexual Harassment

Posted on Oct 31 2016 - 7:36pm by Redwire Singapore

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JESSLYN NG: My name is Jesslyn Ng and I am one of the MOE Scholars (Local) who attended the Dialogue Session over tea hosted by you and other Senior Management staff earlier this year. You may have an impression of me as the teacher who was only teaching one Secondary 2 Express class and one Secondary 4 Normal Technical class this semester. I recall you mentioning that if we have any problems, we can always approach you.

I have attached to this email scanned copies of two police reports. The earlier one was the reason why I was only given two classes this semester. I was initially given three classes at the start of the year – two Secondary 2 Normal Academic classes and one Secondary 2 Express class. However, shortly after Semester 2 started in July, two of my students came to me after one of my Math lessons ended at about 10 am, informing me that three Malay boys in that same class had taken upskirt photos or videos of me. One of the informants also mentioned to me that a large number of students in the class have seen the videos or have known about the incident as they were eye-witnesses. That same informant also told me that the last time he saw them do that was to another female teacher last semester.

I did not inform my RO or my Math mentor immediately after the students have alerted me because I was having a whole day of lessons all the way till 2.10 pm. Furthermore, my mentor was on leave that day. I informed my STEM Mentor R and my colleague Y only after school and they accompanied me to inform the school principal Mr Andrew Tan. I did not call for the police immediately after I heard of the matter as it had been mentioned at our staff meeting that if any staff were to make a police report, he/she would need to go through the principal. The school’s management informed me that they would deal with this matter internally. However, when I lodged a police report after meeting Mr Tan, Staff Sergeant P from Hougang NPC told me that the school should have called in for the police to investigate on 15 July, upon notification that such an incident has happened in school. The police also suggested that I email MOE as they think the school is trying to keep the matter under wraps.

Immediately after I have made a police report, Mr Tan called to inform me that the three boys involved had singled out another Malay boy from the other Secondary 2 NA class I was teaching. He had also taken upskirt videos of me and another female teacher. However, the other female teacher refused to press charges.

Last year, I have had some suspicions about these three Malay boys as I noticed that they were standing too close to me when they were consulting me about Mathematics questions. Sometimes their elbows or arms would brush past the side of my breasts, and there were also a few instances when I felt something brushing against my backside while I was bending slightly to attend to a student (the students are seated in columns of pairs). However, I have always given them the benefit of the doubt and assumed that those were accidental physical contact, especially since I did not have any concrete evidence and I did not want to wrongly accuse them of such a despicable act. I spoke to my STEM Mentor (now HOD) about these instances and she advised me to be more mindful and keep my distance from them in future.

Mr Andrew Tan informed me that they would deal with the matter internally, but my husband advised me to make a police report, so he accompanied me to make the report the following day. The boys had already confessed that they attempted to take upskirt videos of me when they were interviewed by the school the following day, so the police said that they could be charged with Outrage of Modesty regardless of whether their attempts to do so have been successful. The school could not find any evidence in their phones, but the pictures from the previous upskirt incident were circulated and even students from other classes knew what happened. However, Mr Tan told me that they would not be meting out any punishment because I have made a police report. The boys were only suspended for 1-2 days to be interviewed by the school, and their parents have been informed. Mr Tan said that appropriate punishment would only be meted out after the police have conducted the investigation and have decided whether the boys would be charged or let off with a warning. Mr Tan spoke to the teaching staff during Contact Time and to the Secondary 2 students during morning assembly about the seriousness of such offences. He had also spoken to the two affected NA classes and shamed the boys in front of their classmates by telling the class what they have done and how serious it was.

There was a similar upskirt incident that happened to another female teacher (who has since left the service) in the school in Semester 1. The culprit, a Secondary 3 boy, was given a few days of suspension and underwent counselling. He was also suspended from the Student Council.

I was given about 5 days of UPA leave as I was extremely affected by the incident. I was depressed for quite a while and would cry uncontrollably at the thought of what had happened. On day before I was due to return to school, Mr Tan and my then-Subject Head R asked me if I would like to continue teaching the two Secondary 2 NA classes affected, and if I did, they would make arrangements for the 4 students who were involved to be taught one-to-one by another teacher while I continue teaching the other students of both classes. I was very emotional when I heard that, as to me, teaching them one-to-one was more of a privilege than a punishment and it was extremely unfair not just to me, but to the rest of the students as well. They would undoubtedly think that it would be alright to take upskirt videos of teachers as there would not be any punishment and they could even have one-to-one attention and coaching from teachers.

The police has not got back to us about the final verdict and the school has not punished the boys since the report of the incident, except for the 1-2 days of suspension during investigation and talking to the school and the boys about the seriousness of the offence. When I requested for the boys to be punished by caning (I do not think that suspension, detention or writing reflections would help), Mr Tan mistook my intentions as seeking revenge with the culprits. I felt uneasy because the students got away with only a few days of suspension and did not understand how serious such offences are. The outrage of modesty can lead to a jail term, caning and/or fine, according to the Penal Code.

The latter report was a report made last night after receiving an extremely disturbing and sexually explicit Direct Message via Instagram from a Secondary 2 Express student. I have been teaching this class Mathematics since March 2013 when I was posted to Montfort Secondary for practicum. The boy G had copied pictures I had previously posted on Instagram, cropped them to only show my chest area and zoomed in to make a collage before sending it to me with a long message with sexually explicit details. My husband and I felt disgusted by his act of sexual harassment and we decided to report to the police. As I have access to Montfort Dashboard, I searched for his father’s contact details and my husband called his father to talk to him about what his son had done. However, his father insisted that the boy is currently in India and has no access to Internet. I then contacted his classmate to ask for the boy’s phone number. Using Whatsapp, I managed to confirm that he was last seen at 5.32 pm yesterday, which was around the time he sent me the message via Instagram. I did not inform the school as I did not feel comfortable and I did not want the school to mishandle the situation again.

Since my posting to Montfort Secondary School for my practicum in March 2013 till now, I have been feeling uncomfortable as the boys’ school is extremely close to my parents’ house (2 minutes’ walk from my parents’ house). I have only moved to my new flat in Bedok Reservoir 3 weeks ago. I have seen boys loitering in groups at the void decks in nearby blocks and I have also caught boys smoking right outside my apartment on the third storey. I often have to leave school late or make a detour on my way home so that the male students would not find out where I am staying. My husband and I both agreed that it would be best for me to get a transfer out of this school as soon as possible, hence I applied for Closed Posting and I would be posted to ********* Secondary with effect from 2 January 2015.

The Secondary 2 classes would have heard of what had happened for the upskirt incident because I was away for close to two weeks without any explanation to my students and my Express students gave me a card to comfort me about what had happened, yet G still sent me such a disturbing message with pictures of my breasts – this means that the students know that they can get away with such offences! Furthermore, these students do not know that I am transferring out of the school next year. I hope that you could take this matter seriously and look into it as I feel that the welfare of teachers is very important and should not be compromised to protect the students even if they are minors. I also hope you can look into the discipline of the school because in my personal opinion, such cases would not cease to emerge as the students know they can get away with their offences.

Thank you very much for your kind attention. I hope to hear from you soon.”

I met up with Zonal Director (North Zone) Mrs Lim Thian Loke a few weeks later on 19 December 2014. I still remember sobbing as I was talking to her that day. However, what she said did not comfort me much because it felt like she was siding with what Mr Andrew Tan had done after the incident. She explained that it was MOE policy that schools are recommended to deal withsuch incidents internally and would not mete out any punishment if the staff involved has made a police report. To me, and probably to all those who have been born in the same era, would definitely have heard of caning in schools. I personally believe that the punishment should be from both the school AND the police – because being punished in school serves as a warning to the school population while being ‘punished’ by the police serves as a warning to what they would face should they commit a crime or break the law. Furthermore, these students were minors and they would most likely to be let off with a stern warning from the police (which they eventually did).

“Thank you for meeting with me this morning. I appreciate your sharing with me how the incident had affected you, especially since the students were from your form class which you devoted much effort to. Your feedback on the need for greater sensitivity to your feelings is valid and will be conveyed to the Principal.

Let me assure you that the well-being of our teachers is very important and you too acknowledged that the school had attended to this in a few ways. I have also clarified with you that it is normal for schools to suspend action whilst police investigation is ongoing. The Principal, Mr Andrew Tan, had given his word that he will inform you of the outcomes of the police investigation and course of action once completed.

As for the second incident involving another student, his actions are of grave concern. The school will follow up on the matter and to give a fuller picture to the new Principal, I have obtained your permission to forward to him the police report which you made on this case.

I hope that you can put all this behind as you continue your teaching career in a new environment. Allow me to wish you all the best in nurturing our students for a better tomorrow.”

Together with my husband, I met up with the new Principal of Montfort Secondary, Mr Mark Minjoot, on 18 March 2015 as he wanted to update me with the case. He told me that the boys involved have been caned, but I found out from my ex-colleagues that there was no such instances (they were form teachers of those boys). I was already very tired to carry on arguing with the new principal so I decided to let it go. Furthermore, I was pregnant and I did not want the negative emotions get to me.

Now that a similar incident has been known to the public, I feel compelled to share this story. This incident taught me to be stronger and to fight for my rights, that was why I didn’t bother to be a ‘good’ teacher who put in her best for the school (even though I did do my best when it comes to teaching) – because if the school doesn’t care about your basic rights, then why should you slog your life away for them? This is not a proud moment for me, but I’m glad to have finally get this off my chest. Till now, whenever I think about what happened to me, I still have an aching pain in my heart and I will feel depressed for a while. This has definitely affected how I’ve viewed my career even though I love teaching very much. I really just wish the welfare of teachers come first.

 

 

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