A teacher's aide suspected of child abuse at a day care center in Israel was arrested on Thursday morning after all other staffers had been detained and questioned earlier over their involvement in a string of violence acts in the facility, which were recorded on video.
This week, the Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry issued a closure order for the day care center for 90 days.
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The teacher's aide, the eighth staff member arrested at the Tuli day care center in the central town of Ramle, was questioned and released to house arrest. The other seven suspects were brought before the Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court on Thursday for a hearing to extend their detention.
The aides arrested last week are suspected of violent acts that were filmed over a period of a month and half in two different classrooms. The investigation began after one of the parents provided the police security camera footage showing the violence against the children, who were from six months to two years old.
The aides can be seen beating the children on the head, pulling them by the hair, slapping them, throwing objects at them such as packages of baby wipes and tying them to chairs. The judge said during one of the hearings that it seems that the violence was a common occurrence at the Tuli day care center.
On Monday, police arrested the owner of the center, Lital Barsi, on suspicion of attacking toddlers and being a witness to a number of incidents in which the aides attacked children. Barsi and her husband, Moshe Barsi, are also suspected of not reporting the violence against the children and violations of the law on day care supervision.
Last week, four day care aides from the preschool were arrested on suspicion of abusing the toddlers, and three others were arrested in the past few days. According to video recordings obtained by the police, the teacher was present when the aides abused the children.
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The court extended Barsi’s detention by four days at the beginning of the week. The judge said the investigation seems to indicate that she knew clearly of the abuse and “did nothing.”
The court forbade the release of any of the video clips in the case, even though some of the materials had already been circulated on social media. One of the defendant’s lawyers said the cameras were placed in the preschool secretly by one of the parents, so this evidence was obtained illegally – similar to an illegal wiretap.
The police said they will examine the issue seriously, but at this stage they are only examining the question of reasonable suspicion over the alleged crimes – and not the question of the acceptability of the evidence. But the judge said at one of the hearings that his understanding was that the cameras were installed at the request of the manager of the preschool – and these claims will have to be clarified later. Parents with children in the facility protested last week in Ramle over the affair.
The preschool has a number of rooms for different groups of children, and was opened in December 2017. Since then it has operated without a permit for using the property as a day care center because it is located in a private home, and never received the proper permits. The city had previously gone to court for an order forbidding the preschool to use the building. In January of this year, after beginning the process of making the legal arrangements with the city to use the house, a lawyer representing the city informed the court that it had reached a plea bargain with the couple, and asked the court to remove Lital Barsi from the original indictment.
Shlomi Sahar, the attorney representing the Barsis, said in their name: “We would like to thank the Haaretz newspaper on the matter of the permits for exceptional use of preschools. This general issue reached the Central District Court in Lod, and there it was decided by Judge Michael Tamir that there is place to agree to a request for an order closing a preschool, when the owners of the preschool acted even before the opening of the preschool for the purpose of issuing the necessary permits. On this matter, as in the case in front of us, the owner of the preschool was removed from the indictment, in part because of these reasons,” said the lawyer.
The Ramle Municipality said the day care did not meet the requirements of the regulations and as a result its operators were required to act to receive a permit for exceptional use. As a result of the city’s warning, the operators submitted such a request, it was approved by the local planning and building committee with conditions – but the permit was not issued because the operators did not meet the committee’s requirements.