Vietnam school administration accused of cover-up in vicious student bullying

By Duong Tam, Viet Tuan   March 31, 2019 | 10:41 pm PT
A school administration in northern Vietnam faces dismissal on suspicion it tried to cover up the brutal assault of a student in class.

On March 22, five unnamed ninth graders of Phu Ung Secondary School in Hung Yen Province’s An Thi District stripped a classmate named Hanh and brutally hit her on the face and chest.

No one intervened to stop the assault, but it was captured in a 40-second video by another student and circulated on social media.

On learning about the incident a day later, the school administration suspended the five students for a week and ordered the video deleted. On March 25, the parents of the five students apologized to Hanh’s family at a school meeting.

However, Hanh’s family later accused the school of not providing accurate information about the assault promptly and called for authorities to investigate the school’s attempts to cover up the shocking incident.

Since March 28, Hanh is being treated for acute stress disorder at the Hung Yen Mental Hospital.

The case has come to the notice of government officials, including Minister of Education Phung Xuan Nha, who has ordered a thorough investigation and punishment for everyone responsible.

The school education board faces dismissal and its principal has been suspended.

Calculated assault

Hanh sits on a bed in the Hung Yen Mental Hospital. Photo by VnExpress/Duong Tam

Hanh sits on a bed in the Hung Yen Mental Hospital. Photo by VnExpress/Duong Tam

Hanh, student of class 9A at the Phu Ung school, said the trouble started when she refused an order by a classmate to bring a hat downstairs on the morning of March 22. She was threatened with violence then.

In the afternoon, Hanh was accused of writing love letters to another classmate’s lover. Hanh denied the accusation. She was beaten then once, and later in the day, stripped and beaten again. The second act of violence was filmed.

Hanh was too scared to talk to anyone about the vicious attack on her.

"I felt lonely. I have a group of friends who sympathize with me, but they will not speak up."

After the ordeal, Hanh went to school as usual. But when she learnt that images of her ordeal, naked and being beaten, were being spread online, she could not take it. She wanted to stay at home.

"I felt traumatized," she said. "I couldn’t face them." She said seeing the classmates who beat her made her relive the experience.

When she was admitted to the hospital, she was "shaking with fear," records show. It is too early to say when she would be discharged, an unidentified doctor said.

Hanh is generally quiet in class, said Hoa Thi Trang, her class teacher.

When the teacher asked Hanh why she hadn’t complained about her assault, the girl said she was frightened of being beaten again.

Family kept in the dark

When the school informed Hanh’s family members of the assault, they thought she had been beaten by one person, said Nguyen Van Doanh, the girl’s uncle.

It was only on March 25, when they were asked to go to the school to meet with the five students and their parents that they came to know the truth, he said.

"Only when I saw there were five families there did I realize that my niece was assaulted by five people, not one. And a teacher had told me Hanh was only ‘slightly beaten’."

Doanh said the family decided to file a complaint after they discovered the video, which the school never mentioned to them.

"The school’s response [to the assault] has upset our family because they were slow and didn’t tell us the full story of what had happened."

Nguyen Van Doanh, Hanhs uncle, shows reporters his nieces torn-up shirt after the assault. Photo by VnExpress/Duong Tam

Nguyen Van Doanh, Hanh's uncle, shows reporters his niece's torn-up shirt after the assault. Photo by VnExpress/Duong Tam

Official response

Nhu Manh Phong, principal of Phu Ung, has been suspended while the class teacher, Trang, has been replaced by another teacher to "stabilize the students’ mental state," said Duong Tuan Doan, Chairman of the An Thi District People’s Committee.

Education Minister Nha has visited Hanh in the hospital, remarking later the incident was "painful."

"The teachers who did not do their jobs must be dealt with. Students lacking morals and behaving indecently also need to be dealt with properly," he said.

Nguyen Van Phong, Chairman of Hung Yen Province, has instructed the An Thi District People’s Committee to consider dismissing and disciplining the school’s administration board for deliberately concealing information and for being too lenient.

The class teacher also needs to be punished for "not knowing what the students were up to," he said.

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