Israel charges preschool teacher with hundreds of child abuse counts

The teacher, Rowan Abdel-Hai, worked for several years at HaGan Shel Sigal Preschool in Hod Hasharon.

Preschool-age children accompanied by teacher (illustrative). (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Preschool-age children accompanied by teacher (illustrative).
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

A Tira resident in her 30s was indicted on Thursday for hundreds of instances of alleged assault against toddlers during her tenure as a teaching assistant at a preschool in Israel’s Hod Hasharon, according to a statement from the Attorney-General’s Office.

The teacher, Rowan Abdel-Hai, worked for several years at Sigal’s Gan Preschool in Hod Hasharon. During that time, she is said to have hit the children on the head, in addition to force-feeding them, swinging them violently, and shaking them.

Police were able to confirm this by reviewing several weeks' worth of security camera footage from the school. 

Results of the police investigation 

At the end of an accelerated police investigation into the Hod Hasharon school, prosecutors and police said on Sunday that they suspected that dozens of cases of child abuse had taken place.

The owner, a Hod Hasharon resident in her 40s, and Abdel-Hai were detained for questioning. The owner was released under restrictions, and Abdel-Hai was placed under house arrest. The school was closed for 60 days.

According to the indictment, Abdel-Hai would, in addition to physically abusing the children, routinely ignore them for minutes at a time or leave the room for extended periods. She would sometimes spend time alone in the classroom with the door closed while the children were unsupervised outside. 

Preschool classroom (credit: FLICKR)
Preschool classroom (credit: FLICKR)

The indictment revealed 350 distinct cases of assault and abuse of small children. Abdel-Hai is being charged with abuse of minors or helpless persons as well as two separate charges of assault.

Michael Starr contributed to this report.