A TEACHER who wrote on a child’s shirt that he owed Bt700 in school fees is to face an investigation, a senior official said yesterday.
Dr Seksan Niyompeng, mayor of Muang Phetchabun municipality, ordered the action a day after the boy’s mother posted on a popular Facebook page, Red Skull Phatthalung, lamenting the incident.
Seksan identified the institution as Thessaban 1 Ban Nai Muang School in Phetchabun’s Muang district.
He said he had ordered the Director of Education to conduct a probe ahead of possible disciplinary action. The teacher in question had already been temporarily transferred to an inactive post at the municipality office, Seksan said, and the municipality would also help in the boy’s rehabilitation.
Seksan said the Bt700 had not even been for basic school fees but was instead a charge for extra costs, including life insurance and language tuition by a foreign teacher.
The mother said her boy had been traumatised after friends refused to talk to him or play with him following his “punishment”.
In her Facebook message, the mother posted a photo of the boy’s student uniform shirt labelled with adhesive tape with the message that he failed to pay the Bt700 fee. The mother explained she had divorced the boy’s father, who was supposed to have paid the bill.
“The father did not take any responsibility. He just said ‘don’t mind the teacher’ and said that he would later pay the school fee. He has informed the teacher of the late payment. How could he call himself a father?” the mother lamented in the post.
The post drew more than 10,000 reactions and 1,300-plus comments within hours and has been shared more than 9,900 times.
Some posted comments fearing that the action had caused the boy serious emotional damage.
Lawyer Ronnarong Kaewphetch commented on his Facebook page that the action was a violation of the Debt Collection Act and would be punishable by a fine of up to Bt100,000. “It’s also an insult to the child’s human dignity and a violation of his rights,” the lawyer said.
Another woman – the mother of another child in the boy’s class who asked not to be named – said the school had been asking parents to pay outstanding fees since May 18 but that for various reasons, some had fallen behind. During a meeting with parents on Wednesday this week, the school handed out Bt350 to help parents buy uniforms as per the government’s free education scheme … but only to those who had already paid the Bt700 fee.
“So the class teacher put a sticky label with a marker pen message on those pupils who had failed to pay the Bt700 fee.
“I asked ‘Do you really have to do that?’ and the teacher replied there were 10 pupils who had failed to pay the fee, so the teacher attached the label as the teacher's own reminder and said that the teacher would remove the labels when the parents showed up.
“That particular boy’s parents didn’t come but the teacher removed the labels from all of the pupils including the boy,” she said.
She said that the class teacher told her that the photo that went viral on the Internet had been taken the next day, at which time the teacher put another sticky label on the boy’s shirt so as to “pass the message to the boy’s parents who wouldn’t otherwise hear the message if sent to them by mail”. She said that the school had about 200 kids who had failed to pay the Bt700 by the given deadline and that the class teacher had just made a mistake and didn’t mean to cause any harm. This teacher cared for the pupils and would invite parents to discuss their children’s academic performance improvement, she said.
According to Red Skull Phatthalung, several other parents stepped forward to say their kids had also felt humiliated for having to wear the sticky labels on their shirt during the parental meeting on Wednesday and urged them to pay the overdue fee. “But do you really need to do this? Don’t you think it is humiliating to the children? Do you need money that much?” they asked.