Police were notified on Saturday after a high-school student fell seriously ill after a teacher allegedly subjected him to repeated punishments in the form of physical exercises.
The first-year culinary-arts student, surnamed Liu (劉), at Yung-Ping Vocational High School in Taoyuan was on Thursday diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis — the breakdown of striated muscle tissue and the release of myoglobin into the bloodstream — after being rushed to hospital.
Liu was in intensive care, where he was reportedly recovering.
His parents on Saturday filed a report with police, naming Liu’s teacher, surnamed Huang (黃).
A family member said Liu has a relatively slight build and so was quickly worn out when Huang had him do a large number of push-ups for failing to register properly on the first day of classes on Monday last week.
The following day, Huang had the entire class peel red onions and students were required to do a squat jump or a crunch for every gram they fell short of a 1.2kg quota, the family member said.
Liu, who only peeled 66g, was one of eight students required to do the exercises, his family said, adding that the student was doing the exercises for half a day, but was unable to finish, so Huang demanded that he peel an additional 1.5kg of onions and barred him from taking days off.
The family said that on Thursday Liu complained of muscle pain, but did not dare take a day off school for fear of further reprimand from his teacher.
Liu went to school, but the family asked that Huang not make him perform any physical exercises, family members said.
Huang ignored the request, telling Liu to run laps of the sports field while carrying bottles of water on serving platters, the family said, adding that he was given additional laps whenever he dropped a bottle.
At home that evening Liu passed brown-colored urine and was incoherent, his parents said, adding that they immediately rushed him to the emergency room of Taipei Veterans General Hospital.
School principal Huang Yao-lu (黃耀祿) said that the teacher started at the school two years ago after working in the private sector.
He said the teacher’s methods are strict, but effective, citing students who have gone on to win international awards for their cooking.
He added that the teacher will finish his current contract with the school at the end of this month.
“Teacher Huang has expressed his regret and apologies and has promised to take full responsibility, including covering medical expenses,” the principal said.
The school said it is investigating the incident and would decide after its investigations whether to retain the teacher.
Ministry of Education K-12 Education Administration official Yang Kuo-lung (楊國隆) said the ministry will also be conducting its own investigations at the school.
Humanist Education Foundation executive director Joanna Feng (馮喬蘭) said physical punishment in schools has long been prohibited.
“The ministry should also look into the responsibility of the school’s administration in regard to the use of corporal punishment there and make its report public,” she added.
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