Israeli Preschool Aides Charged With Child Abuse

Three women at a Petah Tikva facility were caught on security cameras shaking infants and slapping them in the face

Yasmina Vinta, a 15-month-old girl who died in a Petah Tikva preschool. An aide was charged with manslaughter in her death.
Courtesy of Israel Police

Indictments were filed Sunday against three staff members at a preschool in the Tel Aviv suburb of Petah Tikva, for physically abusing children in their care. Viktoria Kubatko, 43; Katrina Kirilyuk, 35 and Paulina Zavgorodny, 57, were charged with hitting children aged 3 months to 3 years. The preschool operated without a teacher and the three were the only caregivers there.

The accused were filmed on security camera committing the acts and have confessed to the offenses with which they were charged. Police said the suspects told detectives the children “got on their nerves.” But Kirilyuk’s husband, Igor, told Haaretz that his wife was innocent.

The three were charged with 35 counts of assault committed in March that including slapping infants in the face, shaking them and shoving their heads. The defendants were also accused of force-feeding babies.

Law enforcement officials were alerted to allegations of abuse after the father of a child at the preschool said he noticed a change in the behavior of his daughter, who was new to the school. After the father reviewed the security camera footage at the facility, he alerted police, who arrested the women.

The suspects were released subject to limitations and barred from working with children. The father of one of the children at the preschool said that if not for the security cameras there would have been no criminal case against the defendants, adding that he will not be able to relax until the three are convicted.

“The father who exposed the case stood with a sign at the entrance to the kindergarten reading ‘My son was abused here.’ Two policemen tried to remove him. Most of the parents thought he was crazy until the film footage was uncovered,” the father who spoke to Haaretz said.

The owner of the preschool, who has been identified only as Alex, told Haaretz that he acceded to the request by the father who asked to review the security camera footage.

“Two days later, he came to the preschool and said they said his son had been abused. I immediately asked to see the cameras for myself and contacted all of the parents.”

Several hours after the charges were filed Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation gave its support to a law that would provide incentives for preschools to install security cameras.

The initial draft of the legislation is to be shelved in favor of a bill that would provide government subsidization of the cost of the cameras. Lawmakers will also consider requiring the installation of cameras rather than making it voluntary.

In an unrelated case, last month an aide at another preschool in Petah Tikva, Ina Skivenko, was charged with killing Yasmina Vinta, a 15-month-old child in her care, as well as abusing other children at the same preschool.