STUDENT SETS TEACHER'S HAIR ON FIRE IN CLASS STUDENT SETS TEACHER'S HAIR ON FIRE IN CLASS Class so shocked they froze Right in the middle of the class, the girl sneaked up behind the teacher and held a burning lighter to her hair. The girl immediately tried to put out the fire with her bare hands. But the damage had been done. Hair at least the size of a palm was singed, and the teacher's dress was partly burnt before she left in tears. It happened in front of the whole class. 'I saw her walking past playing with a lighter. She put it at the teacher's hair and it just burst into flames!' said eyewitness Adam. 'And then we could all smell that terrible burning smell.' The student, Janet, had walked up six rows of tables from her seat right at the back of the class before burning the teacher's hair with a lighter. The teacher had long hair that was half-way down her back. JUST SAT THERE 'We saw the flames but we all just sat there, shocked, and didn't do anything,' said another classmate, Emma. 'I mean, who would ever expect anyone to ever do anything like that? And to a teacher too!' The names of all students have been changed to protect their identities. Yes, it happened right here in Singapore on March 22nd. And the culprit? A 13-year-old girl in Secondary 2. She has since dropped out of the school, which is in the West Coast area. But it's not just Janet that the school authorities are worried about. Perhaps more disturbing is that the teacher, in her 30s, continues to be haunted by the incident. Though she did not suffer any physical injuries, she has been badly affected and is said to be undergoing counselling. When contacted, her school confirmed the incident and revealed that the incident was not related to any disciplinary issue between teacher and student. The school requested that The New Paper not speak to the traumatised teacher. However, The New Paper spoke to five of Janet's classmates about the incident. They said the class was having an English lesson conducted by the teacher who teaches English and music for eight periods a week. The teacher had her back to the class, and was writing on the white board. Janet, who sat at the back, was playing with a lighter and chatting with some friends. HALFWAY THROUGH LESSON Then, right in the middle of the lesson, Janet walked up to the teacher and waved the flame at her teacher's back. Singed hair and a burning dress was followed by the frantic putting out of the fire. 'We all were shocked, but she (Janet) was also very shocked. I don't think she really wanted to set our teacher's hair on fire,' said eyewitness Joanna. 'Because she quickly started putting out the fire on her teacher's hair with her own hands!' Both the teary teacher and the student then walked out in turn, leaving the rest of the class stunned. Though students are aware that the teacher was traumatised by the event, they do not know why she has not returned to class. 'Our teacher looked as if she was going to cry right before she walked out of class,' revealed Adam. NOT TEACHING THEM ANYMORE 'After that, she only came back to class once or twice to talk to us about the incident. But she hasn't come back to teach us - we have been having only relief teachers. 'I wonder why actually, because we've all seen her around school sometimes.' Janet was contacted by a close friend on The New Paper's behalf but declined to comment. However, the same friend who is in another class was quick to jump to Janet's defence. 'She was just playing - nothing serious. She was just a bit bored during class and was playing with a lighter,' said Kate, who was also in the same primary school as Janet. 'And so she told her neighbour that she dared to burn the teacher's hair. 'No-one stopped her, so she just went ahead to show that she can. But she didn't expect it to really catch fire - and she was the one who put it out.' However, not all the eight friends interviewed by The New Paper were as comfortable with Janet. One student, Emma, insisted that she not be named because she was apprehensive about Janet, 'especially when you know she dares to do a lot of things'. 'I don't know her that well,' Emma added. The normal academic student was new to the class, as she had been moved from the Sec 1 express stream. NICE AND WARM GIRL 'But I think on the whole she seems to be okay. Can be quite nice and warm if you really know her better,' continued Emma. But when asked about why they thought Janet had done that, they were stumped. 'Our teacher is actually okay - boring, but others are like that also. 'Of course she shouts when she's angry but she's quite nice. Very naggy though,' said Amelia. 'She (Janet) seems nice too. We haven't seen her in class since she walked out with her bags that day. But I wonder why she did that?' -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Student and father have apologised to teacher. Here's the reply from the school principal: I confirm that the incident of a student burning one of my teachers' hair did happen on March 22nd this year. After a thorough investigation, it was established that there was no conflict between the teacher and the student and that the incident was not due to any outstanding issue between them. There was no physical injury to the teacher. The student could not explain or provide a reason for her behaviour. The student and her father have since apologised to the teacher. Following the incident, the student's father decided on Mar 26 to pull his child out of school of his own accord in the best interest of the child and the teacher. The school accepted this decision and has assured the father that we will help her get back to schooling when she is ready. The school is also providing its full support to the teacher to help her cope with the incident.