By Chong Shin Yen
TO THE two schoolboys, it was a classroom prank that went wrong.
To the victim's mother, it was a case of blatant bullying.
She decided that enough was enough - and filed a Magistrate's Complaint against the two boys. They were just 8 years old when the incident happened last October.
Now in Primary Three, they have been summoned to court to attend a mediation session chaired by a magistrate. If it fails, they may end up being charged.
In her written complaint, Madam Ang, 35, a sales executive, said her son, Andy (not his real name), suffered a ligament tear on his right wrist and head injuries from the incident.
We are not using real names as the boys are minors.
They were classmates in Primary Two. On the day of the incident, a relief teacher was overseeing the class.
Madam Ang claimed that around 5pm, the two boys tied a skipping rope around her son's wrists.
They then pulled each end of the rope, but Andy managed to free his left hand.
She claimed that one of the boys, Jack, then hit Andy's head with a handle of the skipping rope. He also used a wet handkerchief to smack Andy's leg.
Madam Ang also claimed that Jack used a chair to hit her son's head, causing him to collapse.
She told The New Paper that she took Andy to see a doctor later that day. She made a police report the same day.
As the case is classified as voluntarily causing hurt, a non-seizable offence, she had to lodge a complaint before a magistrate, who has the power to direct further action.
Hand put in cast
The next day, Madam Ang took her son to KK Women's and Children's Hospital for an X-ray, after his right hand became swollen and he complained that it hurt.
His hand had to be put in a cast and he was given one week of medical leave.
Madam Ang said that before this incident, she had gone to the school a few times to inform the vice-principal that Andy was being bullied in school.
She claimed the school did not take any action and instead told her that there might have been a miscommunication.
When contacted, the school principal declined to comment as the case is ongoing.
All three boys are now in different classes.
Madam Ang took out the complaint on behalf of her son because he is a minor and cannot do so on his own.
But was she being overly protective by taking matters so far?
"How would parents feel if their kids come home from school with bruises?" she said in Mandarin. "I had to do something to protect my son. I didn't see any point in meeting their parents."
Madam Ang said Andy started complaining to her last year about being bullied in school.
"He told me that his classmates often hit him and he did not dare to retaliate."
She said Andy once got into a scuffle with other students in trying to defend his sister, who was being bullied.
For that, Andy's father punished him by making him write the sentence "I will not fight again" for 100 pages.
"After that, he did not dare to retaliate for fear of being punished again," said Madam Ang.
"We told him that we sent him to school to study, not to get into fights."
Andy was crying when his father picked him up from school that day. After finding out what had happened, his father alerted the school.
Madam Ang described Andy as active and talkative. But after the incident, he refused to go to school.
"We had to coax him and assure him that we had informed the school and the police before he was willing to attend classes again," said Madam Ang.
Jack's parents said they were shocked when they received the court notice, which was addressed to their son.
They had found out about the incident when Jack's mother picked him up from school that day.
The vice-principal, who had earlier reprimanded the three boys in her office, told her what happened.
That evening, Jack's father, 45, who works in the shipping industry, asked him what he did to his classmate.
He told The New Paper in Mandarin: "He gave me an innocent look and said that he and his classmates were playing the fool with each other.
"At that time, I thought it was nothing serious. He told me that the classmate was all right."
When The New Paper asked Jack why he had tied up his classmate, he said: "We were playing. I didn't tie, I only coiled it around his wrist."
He said they had found the skipping rope in the classroom and were playing with it at the back of the class.
"He (Andy) said it was painful and we stopped. Then I went to lift up a chair to shift it to another place," said Jack.
"(As I was lifting it), he stood up and hit (the chair)."
Jack then demonstrated how he had lifted the chair above his head. He then pointed to the chair's leg, and said that was where Andy had hit his head.
After that day, no one brought up the incident again.
About four months later, on 2 Feb, the family received the court notice. Jack was told to appear in the Subordinate Courts for a mediation session this month.
"I froze as I read the letter over and over again," said Jack's father. "How did things get so serious? Were they planning to charge him?"
That night, the family of three could not sleep.
Said Jack's mother, a factory worker: "He kept asking me, "Mummy, do I have to go to jail?"
"I think he has been watching too much television and thinks that when a person goes to court, the consequences are grave."
She described Jack as an average student.
The couple have not spoken to Andy's parents. Neither have they met them before.
The thought of Jack having to turn up in court weighs heavily on her mind.
She said: "He is not a mischievous boy, but he can be very active at times.
"Is it really necessary for them (Andy's parents) to go to such an extent?"