Harold and Cara Irving thought Piu-Tak Chinese Christian school in Chinatown was the perfect school for their 4-year-old son.
Ater all, their 7-year-old daughter is in her second year at the school, which is run by the Chinese Christian Union Church, and she already can read, speak and write Chinese.
But last Wednesday Harold Irving says he arrived at the school to find that a teacher’s aide had bound his son’s hands with duct tape.
“I received a call from the school informing me that my son was in the principal’s office because he refused to take a nap, and he didn’t want to wash his hands,” Irving told me.
“I told them that I would come and pick him up. I arrived shortly after that and found him standing there with his hands duct-taped together.”
The boy’s wrists were taped together, he said, as were the lower portion of his hands.
“I was stunned,” said Irving, who’s a former police officer. “I was absolutely stunned. I had never seen anything like that in 10 years as a police officer and my 44 years of life. I have never seen anything like that done to a child.”
Irving filed a police complaint, alleging unlawful restraint, and contacted the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
Irving said that when he asked the vice principal, June Gin, what happened, she told him that the boy was “swatting at them.”
A spokesman for DCFS confirmed that the agency is investigating.
The school’s principal, Sylvia Wu, was out of the country Monday.
David Wu, executive director of Piu-Tak Chinese Center, which is affiliated with the school, said his office has been contacted by DCFS and “is fully cooperating . . . and is actively investigating the indicent.”
“On Wednesday, Dec. 8, a 4-year-old student who was being disruptive during the class’ nap time was brought to the school’s office,” Wu told me by e-mail. “On the way to the office and in the office, he repeatedly struck two of our staff members and acted out of control. After 30 minutes, we contacted his father to pick him up. A few minutes before the father arrived, our vice principal loosely taped his longsleeve shirt sleeves together to restrain his hands. This was an effort to keep him from injuring himself and others. A meeting was set up with the parents to discuss this incident. The parents canceled this meeting at the last minute.”
According to what the 4-year-old told his father, two school administrators were involved in the duct-taping. He said the vice principal held his hands while a teacher’s aide affixed the tape.
After first using blue painter’s tape to bind the child’s hands, Irving said the teacher’s aide removed the painter’s tape, saying it wasn’t “strong enough,” and applied the duct tape.
The morning after the incident, Irving said he spoke to the vice principal.
“She told me that I have to tell my son that it is not acceptable not to listen, and this is how it ends up with kids getting guns,” Irving said.
“My reaction was: ‘Are you kidding me. Is this what you think of little black kids?’ ”
Piu-Tak Christian School serves about 132 children in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. Tuition there is $3,650 per child annually.
“You teach kids to respect authority and that [school administrators] are there as advocates to protect them,” Irving said. “They failed us because they didn’t protect our child.”
Irving said he’s also concerned that school administrators treated his son like a criminal, thus reinforcing the stereotype that young black males are dangerous.
“I can’t think of any other race that they would have done this to,” Irving said. “If we don’t stop stereotyping and demoralizing black boys, we will precipitate the stereotype. We have to send a message that this is unacceptable for anyone’s child.”
Of the 132 students enrolled in the school, about 10 are black.
“The hardest thing for us now is trying to find a good school to put our kids in,” Irving said. “That has been our main goal our entire life. We thought we had found such a school, especially since it is Christian-based and we are a God-fearing people.
“We have to pull our daughter out because she can’t very well be in a school where something like this has occurred.”