“The police are verifying the facts with an education center on their alleged involvement in the incidents. Police investigations are ongoing,” Singapore newspaper Today reported, citing a statement that did not name the education center.
Authorities asked the public to avoid interactions with strangers and to continue reporting suspicious activity to the police, as the principal of one of the targeted schools asked parents to remind their children of the risk that strangers pose.
On social media, some shocked parents shared photos of one of the clowns and identified the school police were investigating as Speech Academy Asia — an organization dedicated to helping adults and children improve their public speaking skills.
In one photo, a person disguised as a clown with heavy face makeup, a hat and a plaid shirt was seen tilting their head and fixing their gaze on those standing near a bus stop close to a school.
The academy, which was inundated with negative comments on its Facebook page, has since apologized for the incident and promised it would not happen again.
“We are currently in the midst of discussion to see how we can rectify the situation,” the center said, adding that it would be “putting an immediate stop” to clowns approaching terrified children — which it referred to as “roadshows.”
While the academy acknowledged the stunt had not been well-received, it assured people that the clowns spotted outside school gates did “not offer any form of monetary rewards for children to follow them” and “strictly do not take any children out of the vicinity.”
The academy’s director, Kelvin Tan, told the Straits Times that the clowns were part of a marketing campaign to promote speech classes taking place at the center.
“There was no evil intention behind the costumes,” Tan said.
However, local parents were not amused.
“This is any parent’s worst fear,” one told Vice News. “What if they turned out to be psychopaths and murderers wanting to harm children?”
And while this particular incident happened to be a public-relations stunt, many parents explained that they were already feeling anxious following a deadly school attack in July in which one 13-year-old student was killed by another student at the school. The violence stunned the country, where crime is relatively low.
This is not the first time clowns have spooked people by popping up randomly in public.
In 2016, creepy clowns began appearing across the United States — sparking school lockdowns, widespread hysteria and arrests.
One threat posted on social media referred to a clown kidnapping a student, planting a bomb and exploding a school in the D.C. area, The Washington Post reported at the time.
The creepy clown craze soon spread to the United Kingdom, where police received reports of clowns outside schools, clowns carrying weapons and clowns riding mobility scooters down the streets.
Police said some of the incidents were pranks, while other social media reports turned out to be hoaxes. Amid the sightings, authorities and members of the public urged people to consider the distress caused to young children.