International school van scare: Mixed views from parents on man having 'no ill intent'

International school van scare: Mixed views from parents on man having 'no ill intent'

Channel NewsAsia·2018-01-18 14:05

Walkway leading to UWC South East Asia's Dover campus. (Photo: Jalelah Abu Baker)

SINGAPORE: Parents of UWC South East Asia students had mixed views on Thursday (Jan 18), barely a day after police said a driver who tried to get a female student from the school into his van had no “ill intent”.

On Jan 12, UWC's Head of College Chris Edwards sent an email to parents of the school saying a student had been "approached" while she was on her way home. 

Channel NewsAsia understands that the 32-year-old Singaporean driver had offered a lift to the teenager on Jan 11 because it was raining. 

The incident was one of two of students from different international schools being approached by strangers in vans. The second involved a student from Tanglin Trust School on Jan 16, and the police said on Wednesday evening that it was an "unrelated" incident involving a female driver. 

Some UWC parents said they found it hard to believe that there was no ill intent, while others were just glad that the police were able to identify the driver, and took it as a lesson.

Housewife Prisca Chu told Channel NewsAsia that her concerns were not completely allayed. “It rains all the time in Singapore, but I’ve never been offered a ride. I don’t think it’s common practice in Singapore,” she said.

Ms Chu, who has a five-year-old daughter in the school, added that given that the incident was one of two that involved international schools within a short period, she was inclined to think that it was not a coincidence.

The entrance of UWC South East Asia's Dover campus. (Photo: Jalelah Abu Baker)

Another mother, who has an 11-year-old son in the school, said she would wait for the school's confirmation before she believes that there was no threat to the safety of the teenager involved. 

She said she was keenly aware that worse things can happen, because when she was in the United States, two children were nearly kidnapped from her neighbour’s home by someone in a vehicle.

Professor Rani Mullen, 50, said that some of the parents in a chat group she belongs to were upset, because even if the man had no ill intent, they felt that there should be more awareness that “it is just not okay” for anyone to approach children like that.

INCIDENT A GOOD REMINDER TO REMAIN VIGILANT

But she, like other parents, said that the incident was a good reminder for families who may be living in a “false bubble of safety” given Singapore’s reputation as a safe country.

Another father, who has a 13-year-old son in the school, said he was glad that the police were able to identify the driver. This incident, while said to be benign, was a reminder for the international school parents’ community that these incidents could happen in Singapore, he added.

“Many of us are Westerners, and these things do happen where we come from. We bring our fears with us. It could happen. We are very lucky there are cameras and so much security here,” he said.

Another parent, whose nine-year-old daughter studies in the school, said: “I don’t think any country is ever 100 per cent safe, so we still have to be vigilant.”

Police investigations into the other “unrelated incident” involving a female driver are ongoing.

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