February 2004

Porn VCD in school: 17 boys held

source: The New Paper, front page story 11 Feb 2004
Josephine Chew





Mum slaps son, other parents upset

There was a big flap at a secondary school yesterday after the discovery of pornography led to the detention of 17 boys.

They were made to sit outdoors, and they said they did not have any food or drinks for several hours. One boy had to be hospitalised because of an intestinal condition.

Parents were summoned to the school. Some were in tears and others were angry. One irate mother even slapped her son openly as she scolded him.

The police, who were summoned by the school authorities, are investigating the matter.

The pornography first surfaced in a Sec 2 class last Tuesday. Edwin, 14, (not his real name) was taking out his history text book in class when a VCD he had stashed there for safe-keeping accidentally slipped out. And on its cover was a picture of romping naked women. The teacher caught a glimpse of it as he tried to stuff it back into his bag.

Edwin and some of his classmates were questioned in school on Thursday and Friday.

And after assembly, at 8am yesterday, he and 16 of his male classmates were directed to stay behind for more questioning.

We are not naming the mixed secondary school in the west of Singapore to protect these students, as well as their school mates.

All the names of students in this report have been changed.

'When they asked us whether we knew why we were being detained, we already knew it was because of the porn VCD our teacher had confiscated from our classmate (Edwin) so we weren't really surprised,' said Aaron, one of the 17.

'What we weren't prepared for was what happened next.'


No food or drink

Most of them had no food or drink for seven hours straight, the students said. They claimed that some of them were in the afternoon sun at times as they were told to sit in the corridor outside the school office while writing down their side of the story.

'Some of us were sitting in the sun. We weren't even allowed to eat or drink or anything like that,' a red-faced, slightly sun-burnt boy told The New Paper.

Sixteen had been made to sit on the corridor floor outside the general office to write down their side of the story. One was questioned in an office while two of the 16 were later sent back to class before school ended at 1.30 pm.

When contacted, the principal said she had told them to move into the shade whenever she saw they were in the sun.

'Not giving them food was an oversight on our part. Normally, in such situations, we let them have recess after the rest of the school has theirs. But this time, we forgot and none of them reminded us about it,' the principal said over the phone.

She had left for a meeting at 1pm. When The New Paper arrived at the school at 4pm following a tip-off, it was to a chaotic scene. Thirteen restless teens were being shepherded around the general office. One student was in the sick bay.

Joining in the confusion, parents were milling around, sometimes tearful and agitated, as they tried to get permission to take their children home.

They had been called down by teachers from 1pm onwards.

Angry parents

Teachers and office staff also fretted as they tried to calm angry parents while keeping an eye on the teenagers.

'None of us knew they were taken in at 8am. But I rushed down as soon as they called me at 2pm.

'I was so angry that my boy and his friends were being treated like criminals,' said Mr A J, a parent who bought food and drink for all the students at 3.40pm.

The arrival of the police around 3pm upset some parents.

'Why didn't they call us first and try to resolve this within the school before taking it to such a level?' asked Ms Tina R, whose son Edwin was taken in for questioning by the police. She went with him to the police station.

When The New Paper asked the principal for her reaction, she said: 'We found out about the case last week, and have been investigating as best as we can ever since. Today, we decided that we needed to call the police in for guidance and help.'

In a short interview before Edwin was whisked away by anxious teachers, he told The New Paper that the VCD did belong to him.

'It's actually mine and I watched it at home, and sometimes my friends come over to watch it as well,' he said.

Slapped by mum

It seems that the classmates were not only watching the VCDs together, they were also buying the illegal items. Edwin was heard admitting as much when he was questioned by the police.

It was $10 a VCD, The New Paper heard him say.

His mother, a businesswoman in her mid-30s, responded with a dramatic slap, as bystanders looked on all agog.

'Is that what I give you money for? Do you think I print money?' she shouted, even while volunteering her house for a police search, in order to co-operate with investigations.

After Edwin was taken away in a police car, his house was searched. It is understood that no pornography was found. But Edwin's IC is still with the police as he waits to hear whether he will be charged in court.

Two other boys were also told to report to the police station yesterday.

The police have confirmed that investigations are ongoing, and that they have in possession three uncensored VCDs seized by the school.

Sickly boy in hospital after punishment

A night in hospital hooked up to a drip. That was what Tom got on his 14th birthday yesterday. According to his parents, it was the result of not having anything to drink for seven hours straight.

While his other detained classmates only had to bear hunger, exhaustion, and some aches and pains, Tom had to be rushed to the Children's Accident and Emergency department at the National University Hospital (NUH).

Tom, a student counsellor and class chairman, has Hirschsprung's Disease, which means that without water and food, the walls of his intestines can start to fuse together.

So, as soon as they were notified that their son had been detained, his parents took immediate leave from their work and rushed down to check on their son.

According to his parents, by the time he was seven months old, he had to undergo two major operations to help correct the condition. The last attack saw him in hospital for five days when he was in Primary 5.

'That's why we're so careful and we control what he drinks and eats so that this doesn't happen,' said Tom's father, a manager who took Tom to the hospital from school around 5pm.

His wife, who was also there, was in tears, and too upset to speak to The New Paper.

Later on, when The New Paper visited the couple as their son was being admitted to the hospital, they were calmer, but still angry.

'I just can't believe they didn't give him food. You know how terrible it is to see him in this condition? And I always make sure that the school knows about his condition - I've faxed notes to them a few times already,' said Tom's mother, an HR executive.

'If he's wrong, fine, they can punish him. But this is too much, they have a responsibility to look after his welfare. At least if they had told us earlier, instead of calling us at 2.30pm, we would have told them about it.'

However, the principal said the school was unaware of Tom's condition.

'It's really unfortunate that something like this happened. If only he or any of his friends had requested for recess, then at least we could have done something,' she said after visiting her student at the hospital.

'But as soon as my teachers heard that he had stomach pains, they took him to the sick bay and gave him Milo to drink.'

This was around 3pm.


Foreword by Yawning Bread

The newspaper story is archived as background to my article Porn, panic and pandemonium