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Former preschool teacher pleads guilty to pushing, pinching, scratching 4-year-old boy with special needs for not going to sleep

SINGAPORE — Angry that a four-year-old child with special needs would not go to sleep, a "tired and hungry" preschool teacher decided to vent her frustrations on the boy, pulling his ears several times and scratching his neck, a court heard on Monday (Nov 21).

File photo of the State Courts.
File photo of the State Courts.
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  • Frustrated that a special needs child under her care would not fall asleep, a preschool teacher pushed, pinched and scratched the four-year-old
  • She was aware that the child was suspected to have autism spectrum disorder
  • The court heard that the teacher had been “angry and frustrated” at the child, and was also tired and hungry as she had not eaten lunch 

SINGAPORE — Angry that a four-year-old child with special needs would not go to sleep, a "tired and hungry" preschool teacher decided to vent her frustrations on the boy, pulling his ears several times and scratching his neck, a court heard on Monday (Nov 21).

She was also aware that the child was suspected to have autism spectrum disorder.

When confronted, she claimed that she scratched his neck while patting him to sleep, but the lie was revealed after the preschool's closed-circuit television camera footage showed otherwise.

In the State Courts on Monday, the 51-year-old teacher — who is no longer working at the preschool — pleaded guilty to a single charge of ill-treating a child under her care under the Children and Young Persons Act. Another similar charge for assaulting a person without provocation will be taken into consideration during sentencing.

She, as well as the preschool where she taught, cannot be named due to a court order to prevent the victim from being identified.

Her case will be heard again on Jan 11 next year.

WHAT HAPPENED

Working at the preschool for nearly a decade, the teacher was tasked to teach Chinese language to the children, as well as to bathe, feed and to monitor them during their outdoor play sessions.

She was also responsible for caring for the children while they napped at the preschool, court documents showed.

On Dec 2, 2020, at about 12.34pm, the teacher had been “angry and frustrated” that the child who had special needs would not fall asleep.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Niranjan Ranjakunalan said that she was also tired and hungry because she had not eaten lunch.

As the child was lying face down on his sleeping mat next to the teacher, she pulled him by the shoulder and rolled him off the mat.

After the boy sat up, she then grabbed the child by his left forearm and dragged him across the floor, hurting the child’s knees in the process.

The teacher also pulled on his ears several times, scratching the child's neck in the process.

Court documents said that at around 12.54pm, the teacher pulled the child towards her by the back of his shirt while he was seated.

As the victim tried to inch away from her, she then pulled him by the shirt again, before pushing him from the back, causing him to fall forward.

“The accused then pulled the victim towards her and pushed his torso with her right hand,” court documents stated.

When the victim’s family domestic worker came to pick him up, the teacher claimed that she had accidentally scratched him while patting him to sleep.

CCTV EVIDENCE

Noticing the scratches, the victim’s mother decided to lodge a complaint with the preschool.

The teacher then repeated to the preschool's principal the next day that that she had accidentally scratched the child.

However, the teacher later admitted to “rough handling” the child after she was confronted with closed-circuit television footage taken in the sleeping room, the preschool’s principal told his mother on Dec 3, 2020.

The child sought medical attention at a hospital on Dec 4, 2020. The court heard that the preschool had paid for the child’s medical bills and also terminated the teacher’s contract on the same day.

The victim's mother made a police report the next day.

A report by the Child Guidance Clinic later revealed that the child was likely to have an autism spectrum disorder, because he struggled to maintain eye contact with people, did not interact with his peers much and did not speak until he was five, among other things.

If convicted of ill-treating a child under her care, the woman can be jailed up to eight years or fined up to S$8,000, or both.

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court crime preschool teacher

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