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Affected students, staff and parents at River Valley High School being offered trauma support after student's death: MOE

SINGAPORE – Psychological and trauma support is on offer to close friends and teachers of the Secondary 1 boy and the 16-year-old teen accused of killing him in River Valley High School (RVHS) on Monday.

Education Ministry specialists and school counsellors trained in psychological first aid and trauma management were at the school on Tuesday and are still stationed there, said Director-General of Education Wong Siew Hoong.

He added that a room has also been set up in the school since Tuesday for affected staff, students and parents to walk in for support, and it will be there till the end of the week.

Mr Wong was speaking to the media on Wednesday (July 21) at the Ministry of Education (MOE) headquarters in Buona Vista, two days after the alleged murder of a 13-year-old student on campus in Boon Lay.

He said: “Naturally, following this incident, some parents are understandably anxious about the safety of their children. Now schools, student safety has been and continues to be of paramount importance to all of us.”

He added that all schools will continue to be vigilant about campus security and the necessary processes are in place to ensure this is done.

RVHS, with support from MOE, has also provided staff, students and parents with helplines, and will continue to “keep a close eye on students and staff who are still traumatised or show prolonged distress symptoms, so that help can be provided to them in a timely manner”, said Mr Wong.

He urged students facing difficulties to reach out to their parents, teachers or a trusted adult.

He added that on Wednesday morning, 97 per cent of RVHS students returned to school, which is “similar to the regular attendance on any given school day”.

He said: “This is the resilience of our students, and we are proud of them.

“RV teachers used some time this morning to check in with their students and to help them process what happened. It is important to create a safe spaces for students to talk about and process their feelings.”

RVHS students range in age from 12 to 18, and it offers a six-year Integrated Programme that allows students to skip the O-level exams and take the A levels in their sixth year.


Director-General of Education Wong Siew Hoong speaking to the media at the Ministry of Education headquarters in Buona Vista on July 21, 2021. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Mr Wong said: “This tragedy has inevitably sent shock waves across our schools and education fraternity. All our schools and teachers stand ready to help and are on vigilance to look out, especially for at-risk students and those who are struggling to deal with what happened, to provide them with prompt support.”

He added that the culture of peer support that has been built up within schools here will be useful during this period of time as students can look out for and support one another. They can also encourage others in distress to seek help from trusted adults, parents, teachers or counsellors.

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Said Mr Wong: “Some time will be needed for all of us to process and heal from this incident.

“For the young minds that we nurture in our schools, it is a difficult episode to make sense of, which is why MOE and our schools are fully focused on helping them draw useful lessons and making available the necessary support to those in need.”

A website was set up by the school on Wednesday morning for the public to leave messages of support and their condolences.


Flowers left at River Valley High School on July 20, 2021. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

On Tuesday, a Secondary 4 student from the school was charged with murder in a district court. He cannot be named as he is under 18.

He will be remanded at the Complex Medical Centre in Changi Prison for psychiatric observation and is slated to be back in court on Aug 10.

The police, in a statement on Monday, said officers found the 13-year-old boy motionless on the toilet floor. He had multiple wounds. An axe was seized as evidence when the 16-year-old was arrested.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam in a Facebook post on Tuesday said preliminary investigations suggest that the older boy had bought the axe online and that he had a history of mental health issues.

Education Minister Chan Chun Sing, in another Facebook post that day, said students and staff will have access to counsellors trained in trauma management over the next few days.

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Getting help

• National Care Hotline: 1800-202-6868

Mental well-being

• Fei Yue’s Online Counselling Service: eC2.sg
• Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222
• Samaritans of Singapore: 1-767 (24 hours)
• Silver Ribbon Singapore: 6385-3714
• Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788

Counselling

• TOUCHline (Counselling): 1800-377-2252
• Care Corner Counselling Centre: 1800-353-5800

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