People dressed as clowns were seen loitering around primary schools in Singapore and asking children to ‘follow them’ as part of a failed marketing stunt which sparked panic among parents.
One man wearing clown makeup and a hat was spotted staring at school children outside a number of schools, sparking a flurry of messages between worried parents.
The clowns were part of a bizarre marketing stunt by educational consultant Speech Academy Asia to promote their courses. The company has since apologised to parents for the ’cause of concern over the safety of your children’.
The commotion led school principle of Tao Nan School, Mdm Poh Qinyu, to issue a warning to parents to remind their children ‘not to be lured by any strangers’ and for them to report any suspicious behaviour to the school and police.
One man wearing clown makeup and a hat was spotted staring at school children outside a number of schools in Singapore as part of a failed marketing stunt
The commotion led school principle of Tao Nan School, Mdm Poh Qinyu, to issue a warning to parents to remind their children ‘not to be lured by any strangers’ and for them to report any suspicious behaviour to the school and police
Mother Lene Wong panicked when she arrived to pick up her daughter Anne from primary school and couldn’t find her.
She instinctively checked her phone and saw a stream of social media posts from other parents showing pictures of men dressed up as clowns approaching children in uniform.
Wong told Vice News: ‘I was held up due to traffic and my mind started racing when I didn’t see Anne waiting for me,’ adding that she then found all of the alarming messages about the clowns, with some parents alleging that some has ‘paid’ the children to follow them.
‘Clowns are terrifying, even to adults,’ Wong said. ‘This is any parent’s worst fear. What if they turned out to be psychopaths and murderers wanting to harm children?’
Singapore police told The Straits Times that they had received multiple reports of people dressed as clowns who were approaching children at various primary schools.
Parents were left furious and said the stunt was done in ‘bad taste’ after a rare violent incident as a Singapore school in July in which a 13-year-old was allegedly murdered by another student with an axe.
Wong, who was reunited with her daughter after she was held indoors by teachers amid the confusion, said: ‘It was a foolhardy stunt that was done in such bad taste, especially considering that many parents and students in Singapore are grieving the events of the axe killing.
‘Who in the world would think hiring men dressed up as clowns to confront children would be a good idea?’
The clowns were also seen outside Angsana Primary School and Temasek Primary School and they were reported to the police while parents were warned by the schools.
The clowns were also seen outside Angsana Primary School and Temasek Primary School (file photo) and they were reported to the police while parents were warned by the schools
A parent, identified only as Madam Shawalati, 36, told the newspaper that when she picked her daughter up from Angsana Primary School, the child was asking why there were clowns outside.
Madam Shawalati said the man as wearing a plastic clown mask with a red nose and lips as well as grey contact lenses.
The clown persuaded the mother to register her daughter for a speech class at Speech Academy Asia.
Madam Shawalati said: ‘Since it is a marketing thing, I understand that it is important to stand out. All eyes were on him.
‘But the way they dressed make them a red flag and it will alarm kids.’
Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin posted a photo of one of the men dressed as clowns in Bedok South and slammed the stunt as ‘plain dangerous’.
He said: ‘Whoever is doing what I assume to be some viral marketing nonsense, stop it!
‘People dressed as clowns have been seen loitering around primary schools asking students to follow them. Please remind your children, DO NOT follow them and to report to the police.
‘I trust the Police are investigating this. It’s not amusing and just plain dangerous.’
The clowns were part of a bizarre marketing stunt by educational consultant Speech Academy Asia to promote their courses. The company has since apologised to parents for the ’cause of concern over the safety of your children’
Mr Kelvin Tan, the director of Speech Academy Asia, told The Straits Times that its marketing team had been sent to the west and east of Singapore to promote their courses on speech.
‘There was no evil intention behind the costumes and we sincerely apologise for it,’ Tan said.
‘We will not do it again.’
In an additional statement posted on Facebook, Speech Academy Asia said: ‘With reference to the news spreading online, of a promoter clad in a clown costume spotted outside various primary schools, posted on 20 September 2021, we would like to extend our sincere apologies for the cause of concern over the safety of your children.
‘We would like to clarify that; although indeed, the promoter is an employee of Speech Academy Asia, our team do not offer any form of monetary rewards for children to follow them. Additionally, our promoters strictly do not take any children out of the vicinity.’
A police spokesperson said: ‘Members of the public are advised to stay away from strangers and to report any suspicious persons or activities to the police.’