Police in Japan have arrested three nursery school teachers in the center of the country on suspicion of beating children over the head, turning them upside down or locking them in a bathroom, in a case that sparked outrage and accusations of a cover-up.
Shizuoka prefectural police said they arrested three women on Sunday on suspicion of assaulting at least three young children in June at a day care center in the city of Susono, at the foot of Mount Fuji.
Susono Mayor Harukaze Murata told reporters Monday that he also filed a criminal complaint against the school principal, Toshihiko Sakurai, for allegedly covering up the abuse, and urged the police to expand their investigation.
One of the teachers is accused of holding a child upside down. Another pushed a girl in the face, according to police, and a third slapped another boy on the head.
Their arrests followed a police search of the private school Saturday in response to the city’s disclosure last week of 15 counts of alleged abuse between June and August.
The results of an internal investigation revealed that the three teachers routinely abused of the little ones slapping them, forcing them to cry, threatening them with a knife, calling them “ugly” and “fat”, locking them inside a bathroom or storage roomdepending on the city.
The mayor accused the school principal of “egregious cover-up” by making other teachers sign a paper requiring them to hide the problem and delay explaining it to parents.
The three teachers, all in their 30s, reportedly told investigators that their treatment of the children was “discipline”while the principal said the documents he asked teachers to sign were to protect the privacy of those involved and denied trying to cover up the abuses.
The city has faced public criticism for not taking up the case in more than three months since a whistleblower first disclosed the cases in mid-August. Murata said he takes the criticism seriously and will accept a pay cut for two months, as well as punish three top officials.
Experts say daycare teachers tend to be low-paid and schools face chronic staff shortages and a difficult work environment.
(with information from AP)
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