By Hedy Khoo
FOR three days, Anita Liew and her parents were distraught and puzzled because they thought she had been expelled from school - over a few stray strands of hair.
Her mother, Madam Wong Kan May, 44, was first told that Anita had been expelled over her "unruly hair" after she had failed to pin the strands from her ponytail neatly.
She was told to find another school for Anita, who is doing her N levels this year.
It was only after appealing to meet the principal that she was told it was a "misunderstanding", and that Anita had only been disciplined, and not expelled.
The principal apologised and Anita, 15, was then allowed to continue attending the school, Henderson Secondary.
The three days of uncertainty and missed schooling has upset Madam Wong. She felt the "worry caused was unnecessary".
Initially, she said she found it "ridiculous" that Anita was being expelled over her hairstyle.
"My daughter has a good record with the school," she said. "She is not the rebellious sort."
Anita, a Secondary Four student, told The New Paper that on 9 Feb, the principal had walked into the classroom midway through her Chinese lesson.
Anita claimed: "The principal asked me, "Why is your hair like that?", then told me to go down to the foyer. I didn't know what I did wrong but I was very afraid."
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She claimed there were about 10 other students who were told to gather there.
Anita claimed the principal then reprimanded her, saying her hair was "unacceptable" and against the rules.
Her account could not be verified because the principal could not be reached despite repeated attempts to seek clarifications.
Said Anita: "It was humiliating and I felt embarrassed because he shouted at me to "get out" and told me to change school. Then he told me to go to the office and phone my mother. I thought I had been expelled."
Madam Wong, a housewife who works part-time selling fish, rushed down to the school from work when she got the call.
She arrived to see her daughter crying outside the school office.
"My daughter told me she had been expelled. I was very puzzled," said Madam Wong in Mandarin.
She asked to see the principal but was told by a member of the school staff that the principal was too busy to meet her.
"He told me my daughter had been expelled and that the principal's decision was final. I did not know what my daughter did but I thought it must have been a very serious offence," she said.
"I apologised and asked for a second chance, but he told me, 'No' and that I should arrange for my daughter to be transferred to another school."