SHE was called an 'idiot mother' by her daughter's teacher in class.
The reason: He found the mother's letter, explaining why her daughter was often late for school, to be unsatisfactory.
On 3 Aug, Ms Mary's (not her real name) daughter handed the letter to her form teacher.
The letter listed bad traffic conditions in the morning as a reason why her daughter couldn't make it to school on time.
According to school records, the secondary one student was late a total of seven times last month.
Said the principal of the school in the north: 'It has been a recurrent pattern over the year, even after form teachers spoke to the mother. This prompted the request for a letter to explain her latecomings.'
The letter, however, did not meet the teacher's approval.
The principal confirmed that the incident had taken place.
Said the mother, 37: 'The teacher, who is also one of the form teachers, quoted parts of my letter and said my reasons were stupid excuses.
'He also remarked, 'What an idiot mother,' in front of the whole class, including my daughter.'
Ms Mary's personal background was not included in the letter.
As single mother, she works two jobs to make ends meet.
This means she cannot accompany her daughter to school every morning.
'I work two jobs and my hours are often irregular. I'm not always able to send her to school,' she said.
She added that her daughter sometimes gets lost when she takes the bus on her own.
'She gets confused about which bus stop to alight at. This is why she is late. When I do send her to school, we sometimes arrive late because of heavy traffic and jams.'
Ms Mary said she kept the letter brief because she was in a hurry when she wrote it.
'She told me at the last minute that I have to write a letter. I wrote it in the car just before dropping her off, worried that she would be scolded if she turned up without it.'
It turns out that the 13-year-old did not escape scolding, even with the letter.
Ms Mary heard about the teacher's harsh words in the evening when her daughter recounted the incident during dinner.
'She told me that she cried in class. She's an introvert and hence did not reply when the teacher made such remarks.'
When a fellow student tried to stand up for her daughter, he was also rebuked, claimed Ms Mary.
Ms Mary said: 'There was a boy who said, 'How can you scold other people's parents like that?'
'In reply, the teacher said, 'shut up, if you're late, I will also scold your mother'.'
Her daughter refused to attend school the next day.
Said Ms Mary: 'She told me she didn't want to go to school. I think her feelings were hurt, and she felt embarrassed in front of her classmates. I can understand why she did not want to go to school.'
On the same day, Ms Mary went to the school.
'I wanted to meet the teacher in question to clarify things, but was unable to, as he wasn't available.
'When I met the principal, he acknowledged that the incident had taken place, and apologised on behalf of the teacher. He said he will further investigate the matter,' she said.
In an e-mail reply to The New Paper, the principal said: 'I have spoken to the teacher and informed him that this use of inappropriate language is not acceptable.
'He has been counselled to refrain from doing so in future. I have apologised to the mother for this incident.
'With regards to using inappropriate language (not only idiot, but other adjectives too, in front of the class or anywhere in the school, we advise both teachers and students to refrain from doing so.'
Ms Mary, however, feels that the apology lacked sincerity.
'I can understand that, perhaps, the teacher did not mean what he said. If that is the case, he should have called me personally to explain. Until now, he has not contacted me.
'To be fair, it is my fault for taking my daughter to school late. However, I have my reasons.'
She added: 'I think he should acknowledge his mistake in front of the class, so students know that they cannot label people with words like idiot so casually.'
According to the principal, efforts will be made towards restoring the relationship between the child and teacher.
'We will work towards making sure that the learning environment in the class is not unduly affected,' he said.
Benita Aw Yeong, newsroom intern
This article was first published in The New Paper.