A group of parents yesterday accused a Hualien school principal of exploiting students by asking them to make soap as “public relations gifts” to be sent to government officials, urging the Ministry of Education to remove him from his position.
Gathering outside National Hualien Special School, the parents accused principal Sung Ping-kun (宋秉錕) of disregarding the students’ right to education by asking them to manufacture soap during school hours, resulting in them missing out on the equivalent of 36 classes of 45 minutes each.
Sung claimed that the soap would be donated to frontline medical workers, as a way for the school’s physically challenged students to contribute to COVID-19 prevention efforts, but he sent all of the soap to central government officials instead, said Chiang Wan-fu (蔣萬富), vice chairman of the school’s parents’ association.
Sung included his personal resume and a signed letter in each package, Chiang added.
Sung treated the students as if they were unpaid child labor and used a special classroom, where air conditioners and dehumidifiers ran for 96 hours, to shorten the two-month soap-making process, Chiang said.
Some teachers said that they were asked to help package the soap under the pretext of “an emergency meeting,” when they should have been teaching or preparing for classes, Chiang added.
“How can his public relations efforts outweigh the rights of teachers and students?” Chiang asked.
Sung had been asked to take two weeks of compulsory leave by the ministry’s K-12 Education Administration, after a group of faculty members reported that he had used derogatory language to scold them on multiple occasions, said a faculty member, who asked to remain anonymous, adding that his leave ends tomorrow.
Seventeen faculty members have sought help from psychiatrists because of the school’s working conditions, the faculty member said.
When Sung learned that parents planned to file a complaint with lawmakers, he allegedly intimidated teachers, urging them not to cooperate with parents, they said.
A parent surnamed Cheng (鄭) said that Sung made inappropriate remarks, such as “if two students get COVID-19, we can get paid leave,” as the school would have to close temporarily according to the government’s disease-prevention guidelines.
Chang Ming-hsu (張明旭), an assistant at the office of Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Fan Yun (范雲), was among several councilors and representatives sent by lawmakers to the rally.
Chang said that Fan was surprised when she received the soap, when it should have been sent to medical professionals.
Fan has demanded that the ministry launch an investigation into Sung’s behavior, and pledged to monitor the case to safeguard the rights of teachers and students, Chang said.
Sung had not responded to requests for comment as of press time yesterday, but has said that he would issue a statement via the school today.
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