Police arrest owner of Ramle preschool after protests over alleged abuse
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Police arrest owner of Ramle preschool after protests over alleged abuse

Woman remanded after court sees video appearing to show she was present for suspected mistreatment of children; 4 assistants detained earlier complain of abuse in jail

Parents demand changes to childcare oversight laws, including tougher sentences for abusive daycare workers and better regulations for supervision of daycare centers, August 1, 2020 (Yossi Aloni/FLASH90)
Parents demand changes to childcare oversight laws, including tougher sentences for abusive daycare workers and better regulations for supervision of daycare centers, August 1, 2020 (Yossi Aloni/FLASH90)

Police announced on Monday that they had arrested the owner of a Ramle daycare center where four assistants have been detained on suspicion of abusing children under their care.

The owner, named by Hebrew-language media as Lital Barsi, had previously been held on suspicion of violating daycare supervision laws, but was released to house arrest.

The woman was remanded on Monday for four days by the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court on the basis of video evidence which appeared to show she was present for some of the abuse. Additionally, the court heard she had been warned that one of the assistants had complaints of violence against her, but despite that, did not fire her.

Her arrest came after days of protests by parents of children at the preschool who said she was being treated leniently due to an agreement to cooperate with police.

The woman told Channel 12 news last week that she felt “betrayed” by the actions of her staff at the Tuli Kindergarten in the mixed Jewish-Arab city outside of Tel Aviv.

The four assistants were arrested after video footage came to light showing the toddlers being physically and emotionally abused.

“They put on a performance for us. They sent photos and told us what she had eaten. They told us what we wanted to hear, but they tricked us,” parent Chen Cohen told Channel 13 news.

The four assistants — Ruhama Saad, Orly Shragani, Hani Nana Tzatshvili and Nirit Swaid — had their remand extended last week by the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court after a judge said that the “video footage cannot be interpreted differently. There is a reasonable suspicion with high certainty of the accusations against them. The additional investigative materials also support the suspicions.”

The women had complained to the judge that they were being treated badly by other detainees where they were being held, saying that they were cursed and spat on.

There have been several high-profile cases in which teachers at private day cares have been caught on film abusing children, sparking widespread public anger.

Firefighters work to extinguish a blaze at the home of Carmel Mauda in the central city of Rosh Ha’ayin on July 6, 2019. (Israel Police)

Last year, graphic footage allegedly showing daycare owner Carmel Mauda and others abusing children as young as 3 moths old led to large protests, and an arsonist set fire to the Rosh Ha’ayin building housing the daycare and Mauda’s home.

Also last year, a daycare center attendant was sentenced to 17 years in prison for smothering to death an 18-month-old girl, who was under her care.

The National Kindergarten Committee called on Friday for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take action to advance protections for children in preschools, including set jail terms for those found guilty of abuse.

“The procrastination of the implementation of the Supervision Act and the writing of regulations, as well as the rejection of the bill regarding minimum imprisonment for abusive teams, leave our children without protection,” the committee said in a statement. “Every day we see the importance of having an oversight body that will take care of the safety of our children. This is how we understand the importance of a deterrent and genuine punishment for those found guilty of causing harm and abuse.”

A bill requiring all childcare centers and nurseries to have security cameras had been debated and delayed for years before finally being passed by the Knesset in December last year.

Parents of children who attended a Ramle kindergarten where staff were accused of abuse, protest the lack of oversight in daycares, July 2020 (Screen grab/Channel 13)

According to the new law, from September 2020 all daycare centers, nurseries, and rehabilitation centers will need to install security cameras, unless 70 percent of the parents object.

All activities inside the centers and the yards outside will be recorded, without sound, on closed-circuit systems. The footage will only be accessed by authorities if there is a suspicion that an offense has been committed. Improper distribution of images will carry a sentence of up to six months in prison.

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