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Fri, Jan 28, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Teacher to pay damages for abuse

EDUCATION A junior high school teacher has been ordered by the Taipei District Court to pay NT$450,000 for abusing a hyperactive student in one of his classes

By Irene Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

A junior high school math teacher was ordered yesterday by the Taipei District Court to pay damages of NT$ 450,000 for physically abusing one of his students.

The student, Yen Hao-wei (嚴皓維, has been classified by doctors as hyperactive, and had been been physically abused by the teacher since he entered junior high school, according to the ruling.

The court ordered the teacher, Chen Chien-chou (陳建州), to pay NT$ 450,000 in damages for physical and mental injuries. Chen was the boy's homeroom teacher and math teacher.

Yen is currently a third year student at the school.

Jhering Cheng (鄭文龍), Yen's lawyer, said that results of the lawsuit should be taken as a warning to teachers nationwide that corporal punishment will not be tolerated.

"A caring, understanding teacher is especially important to a hyperactive youngster like Yen," Cheng said. "Unfortunately, he had a teacher who looked down upon him because of his imperfections, and even used physical abuse against him. It's a clear, but often violated doctrine that corporal punishment can't be used against any students. The [court] decision, as far as I'm concerned, forcefully asserts the doctrine."

Yen, who was assessed as hyperactive by doctors when he was 10 years old, entered junior high school in September 1997. At that time, Yen's mother, Lu Li-mei (呂麗美), had visited the teacher, hoping to establish good communications with the teacher regarding her son's special needs.

However, instead of helping Yen, the teacher physically punished the student in a number of circumstances -- sometimes when he felt Yen had broken school rules and sometimes when he felt Yen had done poorly on a test.

While Mrs Lu once wanted to sue Chen for causing bodily injury, she decided not to file criminal charges after Chen and the head of the Min-chuan Junior High School (民 國中), Yang Chen-lung (楊振隆), begged her not to, according to sources.

However, Lu's forgiveness apparently did not stop Chen's abusive actions against Yen. As a result, she filed a civil suit against the teacher, asking for NT$1 million in compensation. In addition, the mother asked Chen to pay NT$ 1.5 million in damages for having harmed her child's health.

After assessing the merits of the case, the Taipei District Court awarded the student NT$ 450,000 for the 1998 injuries, which have been confirmed by medical reports. It did not, however, grant the NT$ 1.5 million damages claim, since there was no proof of any direct link between the student's worsening health and his exposure to Chen's physical abuse.

In handing down its ruling, the court said that medical studies have found that hyperactive children have several symptoms: They can't concentrate, they are excessively active and they might have behavior disorders. It also said that Chen, as Yen's teacher, should have understood his condition better and helped him in a caring and encouraging manner.

Che, who had been disciplined by school administrators in April 1999 over his use of corporal punishment against Yen in 1998, was not available for comments following yesterday's court decision.

However, the principal of the junior high school said yesterday that it was "awkward" for the court to have ordered Chen to pay damages to the student.

He said that while in his estimation Chen is a good teacher, the court ruling was probably motivated concerns for the student.

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