RYB Education kindergarten under investigation over child abuse claims
Some teachers suspended from duty over allegations pupils were molested, found with needle marks on their bodies and given white pills, Xinhua reports
Beijing authorities are investigating multiple allegations of child abuse at a kindergarten run by a US-listed Chinese education group, according to local media reports.
Xinhua reported late on Thursday that some teachers at the RYB Education New World kindergarten had been suspended from duty as police began an investigation into claims preschool pupils had been molested, found with needle marks on their bodies and given unidentified pills.
Beijing police said they had carried out forensic testing and obtained surveillance camera footage for the investigation.
Parents told news outlet Caixin that at least eight children in two classes had been given white pills and a brown syrup and been “made to stand naked” and “locked in a dark room”.
The Chaoyang District education commission said it had received complaints from parents and sent a task force to the kindergarten to investigate the allegations, news website Thepaper.cn reported.
A spokesperson for RYB Education told state-run People’s Daily that no evidence had been found to support the parents’ claims and the police had yet to finish their investigation.
Repeated calls by the South China Morning Post to the RYB head office in Beijing went unanswered.
A group of parents gathered outside the kindergarten in eastern Beijing on Thursday morning seeking information about the investigation. One man who said he had a child at the kindergarten told Beijing Youth Daily that at least three pupils in that class had been stripped naked as punishment.
“Different parents have asked their kids if it happened – all of them said yes,” the father of a three-year-old, who did not want to give his name, said in the video interview. “When we asked which three children, all of our kids gave the same three names.”
There were still six police vehicles parked outside the kindergarten on Thursday evening.
A police officer said the school would open as usual on Friday, but declined to give any further information.
A mother whose daughter attends the kindergarten told the Post she was not sure if she would send her daughter to school tomorrow.
“Of course I’m very worried, but I haven’t decided what to do,” she said.
In another video posted by news outlet Sohu, a child describes being fed a sweet-tasting white pill while at the kindergarten. Parents told the news outlet they had found needle marks on their children’s thighs, hips and armpits.
The alleged abuse reports came from two preschool classes with children aged four and under. Tuition fees for those classes are 3,600 yuan (US$540) and 5,000 yuan (US$750) a month – about half of the average monthly salary in the city.
In September, RYB Education made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange, becoming the first Chinese early childhood education provider to list in the United States. It runs a network of more than 1,800 kindergartens and day care centres in around 300 Chinese cities.
The allegations come after a scandal at an unrelated Shanghai kindergarten earlier this month, where children are seen in leaked videos being beaten up and pushed by teachers and fed mustard. Two teachers and a cleaner at the kindergarten were arrested and are under investigation.
A People’s Daily commentary published late on Thursday called for surveillance in kindergartens to be stepped up and regulations strengthened to protect children.
Additional reporting by Nectar Gan