Fri, Jan 18, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Kids’ rights awareness lacking: foundation

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

An undated photograph shows a preschool child tied to a chair with tape in Chiayi City.

Photo courtesy of the Humanistic Education Foundation

The Legal Aid Foundation yesterday panned a Chiayi prosecutor and local court for not pursuing criminal charges against a kindergarten employee caught taping a misbehaving toddler to a chair during class, saying their attitude reflects the nation’s general lack of awareness about children’s rights.

The two-year-old boy’s parents saw pictures of him on the kindergarten’s Facebook page tied to a chair with transparent adhesive tape wrapped around his waist and thighs in March and April of 2017, said foundation lawyer Chen Wei-yan (陳威延), who represented the child’s parents in court.

A teacher surnamed Chao (趙), who was later found not to be certified to teach at preschools, admitted to “loosely” taping the boy to the chair twice during class, for about 10 minutes each time.

He said it was because the boy would not stay in his seat and had attacked other children.

Prosecutors said that Chao’s behavior did not constitute coercion and was “inappropriate at most,” because it was not intended to deprive the boy of his freedom, Chen said.

Chao intended to make the boy sit through a class and protect other children from being attacked by him, the Chiayi District Prosecutors’ Office said, adding that he had bitten others in the past.

Pictures found on Facebook showed the boy drawing while tied to his chair, suggesting that the tape did not restrict his upper body and only forced him to remain seated, the office said.

“The prosecutors’ office also said that taping a child is similar to holding them down, in the sense that both involve the use of physical force, with the only difference being whether a tool is used. They said that if parents are fine with teachers holding their children, then using tape should also be acceptable,” Chen said.

After the prosecutors’ office refused to pursue the criminal case in June 2017, the boy’s parents filed for a reconsideration, which was rejected in May last year.

They filed a lawsuit with the Chiayi District Court a month later, but lost the case in November last year.

“Although the ruling cannot be appealed, we will file for civil damages. The purpose is not to obtain a lot of money, but to draw attention to child abuse. The court needs to make it clear that such behavior from adults is wrong,” Chen said.

After the incident, the Chiayi City Government’s education department fined the kindergarten NT$18,000 for hiring an uncertified preschool teacher and failing to meet the minimum adult-child ratio, he said, adding that Chao has left the kindergarten.

The boy’s grandmother said he has been seeing a therapist since the incident and is still fearful of going to school.

“He is now four. It has been more than two years now. It could be a very long time until he can leave those unpleasant memories behind,” she said.

The case is indicative of a number of challenges commonly faced by parents who find that their children have been abused at school, Chen said.

Evidence of child abuse is difficult to gather because children are often too young to articulate what they have experienced, he said.

“Unless the child was killed on the spot or shockingly abusive behavior was caught on camera, most child abusers face very few consequences,” Chen said.

Moreover, prosecutors and judges generally lack awareness about children’s rights and tend to avoid intervening in education, he said.

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