QUEENS, N.Y. (WABC) --Guardians of several young international students at a private tutoring academy have been charged with endangering the welfare of four students between the ages of 9 and 11.
According to a statement from Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, two of the employees used "extreme endurance punishment" and withheld food and bathroom privileges.
"The young victims in this case came to the United States from Korea without their parents who paid considerable sums of money to send their children abroad to learn English and obtain an education," Brown said.
According to a statement from the D.A.'s office, the defendants are 33-year-old Sun Kyung Park, of Oakland Gardens, and 34-year-old Min Kyung Chea, of Little Neck, whose husband owns Crown Tutoring Academy Inc., also in Little Neck. Park is charged with second-degree assault and endangering the welfare of a child. Chea is charged with endangering the welfare of a child and attempted assault.
The two are accused of disciplining students for misbehaving, getting bad grades and being too loud.
Brown said that Park and Chea disciplined a 9-year-old male student between January 2014 and July 2014 by having him hold six to eight books above his head for extended periods of time or by making him place his feet on a chair with his hands on the floor as though doing a push-up.
Park also is accused of hitting a student with a spiral notebook and withholding food and water from a student for a couple of days, then allowing him to only eat rice for a day after that. Park is accused of causing two students to urinate in their pants because they were not allowed to use the bathroom.
According to the criminal charges, students were limited to using the restroom only three times during a one-day period.
Chea gave a thumbs up outside court Thursday, but neither suspect spoke about the charges.
"These are utterly false allegations," said Allen Jennings, a spokesman for the Crown Academy. "There's no basis for the charges that took place."
The Crown Academy is a mainly for Korean-born students go to be tutored for exams like the SATs.
"The children only come to the academy for two hours a day to help with their homework and then they left," Jennings said. "So there's no opportunity for anyone to deprive them of anything."
The district attorney said the main accuser is someone who was affiliated with the academy, but who, Jennings said, left after a bitter contract dispute.
"The government is being used in a private dispute," he said. "This should be in civil court, not here in criminal court, and it's unfortunate people do that to each other. When they have disputes, they call the police and they make allegations, and the police have to do their job. They have to investigate,, especially, these are serious allegations, and at the end of the day, they'll be gone."
Park faces up to seven years in prison, while Chea could be sentenced to one year if convicted. Both were released on bail Thursday.