Stern action required against vicious student

All went well with new students coming and going on the first school day for this year with the exception of a pre-school kid in Serian whose thumb was stuck in a plastic stool hole. Two firemen took 10 minutes to free his right thumb.

However, on the third school day, an untoward incident reportedly occurred at a secondary school in the state capital. On Jan 3, a Transition boy studying in the afternoon session of the school tried to attack a female teacher, 49, who teaches Bahasa Malaysia.

According to the teacher, the small boy refused to stand up and did not participate in greeting her for the usual “Selamat Petang Cikgu” which is the routine token of greeting and respect for any teacher upon entering the class.

She politely asked why the boy refused to do so and to her shock, without being provoked, the boy tried to attack and stab her with his ballpoint pen.

“I tried to avoid his poking with my right palm and the tip of his pen poked my palm causing it to bleed. It was an unprovoked action,” said the teacher, an Open University of Malaysia (OUM) graduate, when speaking to New Sarawak Tribune last Saturday.

The boy even uttered vulgar words (F**k you bitch, I don’t like you) to her, the teacher said, adding that the boy spoke fluent English. She was really taken aback by such insolence and aggression, adding that it was the first time she came across such case in her over 20 years of teaching career.

In fact, the boy was aiming to stab her with the ballpoint pen but she managed to avoid it by using her right hand that resulted in the palm being wounded.

She wasted no time reporting to the afternoon supervisor and got a colleague to dress her wound.

Another male colleague of hers told the teacher later the same boy was earlier spotted making faces at the principal while she was conducting the assembly at an open space outside the classrooms.

Meanwhile, the afternoon supervisor, a man in his 50s, quickly went to the class and was shocked to see the boy’s desk top being dirtied by his ballpoint pen’s black ink because he had been poking his pen on the wooden surface to show his anger for being questioned by the female teacher.

The school principal was subsequently informed about the problem. She immediately called the boy’s parents to discuss the matter with them. Others were not privy to the result of their discussion or the form of action to take and punishment to mete out, if any.

A source close to the school management told the abused teacher that initially the parents made an excuse that their kid was naughty.

According to her, the principal was heard saying the kid was very aggressive and this act of shouting abuses at any teacher was unacceptable. She even threatened to make a police report, the source added. I concur with her (the lady principal) on this.

The parents’ protectiveness reminds me of a Confucian quote that reads: “It is not possible for one to teach others who cannot teach his own family.”

On the boy getting angry without being provoked, perhaps the following quote by Aristotle gives some light to it: “Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”

During my days of school principal from the early 80s to the mid 90s, there was no such aggression known or reported among students in five secondary schools where I served, all of which were boarding schools.

There were cases of parents, mostly intoxicated, who came to the school and made a scene, especially when their kids were expelled from the hostel or boarding house due to various reasons. These were dealt accordingly and amicably.

Sometimes the school is caught between resorting to harsh physical or corporal punishment and the methods recommended by the likes of Aristotle, Plato, Tagore, Freire and many others that emphasise psychological approaches.

There is no one definite solution. Each case merits its own special attention and solution.

Among students, however, such attack on any teacher, male or female was unknown. If there was, the “special red book” would guide the principal to act.

This violent behaviour or act by students combined with such insolence merits a heavy punishment, including expulsion from school.

Attacking a teacher is equivalent to committing a violent crime (with pen as a weapon) of voluntarily causing grievous hurt by means of any instrument under Section 326 of the Penal Code. According to Malaysian law, the minimum punishment is five years’ imprisonment upon conviction.

“I certainly don’t want to continue teaching that class anymore,” the female teacher told her afternoon supervisor, adding that the boy seemed to be in a trance that afternoon and that such an aggression might recur.

Expelling a student from school involves a lot of red tape. There is a SOP to follow, including meeting of school disciplinary committee to be followed by meeting of its divisional education counterpart which will recommend expulsion from school as punishment.

This recommendation, made in the form of minutes of the meeting, will be submitted to the state-level committee that will make the final decision.

During my days as a school head, only two students were expelled from our school – the couple admitted to making out at a secluded spot about 100 metres from the girl’s hostel during the night but I never came across very aggressive or violent student.

Over coffee two days ago a friend said this young culprit could have come from a family where aggression and vulgarity are regularly seen and heard.

At such a young age, he is already conversant in such foul language. He must have heard his father calling the mom a “bitch” or he may have learnt it from others.

I strongly believe so too. What say you?