|Dec. 29, 2018 -- Legal experts welcomed a Beijing court giving prison time on Friday to a former kindergarten teacher found guilty on criminal child abuse charges, saying it will serve as a warning.
The Chaoyang District People's Court sentenced Liu Yanan, a former teacher at an RYB Education kindergarten in the capital, to 18 months for using needles to "discipline" four children in November 2017. It also ordered that Liu be prohibited from working in child care for five years after finishing her sentence or being placed on parole.
"Children are our future and their legitimate rights cannot be violated," the court said.
"Liu didn't shoulder her responsibility of looking after, protecting and educating students as a teacher, and her behavior has breached the Criminal Law."
Ruan Qilin, a criminal law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, said the court's order barring Liu from working in child care is in line with the ninth amendment to the Criminal Law.
Ruan called Liu's punishment heavy since the injuries went beyond being minor. Parents reported to police that their children had scars from the needles.
Under China's criminal law, if injures do not result from a defendant's actions, the punishment would be just 15 days in detention, Ruan said.
RYB Education released a statement after the verdict, apologizing to the families involved and the public.
In November 2017, several parents reported to police that their children, all around 3 years old and enrolled at the Xintiandi branch of RYB, a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, had needle marks and were repeatedly given unidentified white pills.
Liu, the teacher who used sharp, needlelike objects to "discipline" four students, was detained on Dec 29 of last year after the supervisor of the kindergarten in Chaoyang district was fired.
In May, procurators announced formal charges against Liu.
A citywide safety inspection of kindergartens was conducted once the case came to light, with the Beijing Education Commission ordering all institutions to make immediate improvements and reduce potential risks.
Chu Zhaohui, a senior researcher at the National Institute of Education Sciences, agreed and said the sentence clearly showed the need for better training of kindergarten teachers.
"Improving the teachers' quality is also important ... for vulnerable children that need special care," he said.