By Laila Kearney
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The wife of a private school owner and an employee were accused of withholding food and bathroom privileges from underage foreign-exchange students from Korea to discipline them, prosecutors said on Thursday.
Sun Kyung Park, 33, and Min Kyung Chea, 34, both residents of the New York borough of Queens, also were accused of hitting the four students, who range in age from 9 to 11 years old, at Crown Academy.
"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," Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement
"The defendants had an obligation to provide a safe environment for the students and keep them from harm – which they are accused of failing to fulfill," Brown said.
Prosecutors say Chea and Park punished students for getting bad grades or being noisy by forcing them to hold stacks of books above their heads for extended time periods, striking them with spiral notebooks and throwing school supplies at their faces.
A nanny for one of the students noticed scratches and other marks on the boy's body and reported the alleged abuse to police, Brown's office said.
Crown Academy, owned by Park's husband, launched in 2006 in the affluent Queens neighborhood of Little Neck, according to its website.
Park is charged with one count of second-degree assault and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Chea is charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child and two counts of third-degree attempted assault.
Crown Academy advertises itself online as a private learning center that encourages academic work "but also provides unusually close guidance designed to constantly remind students of the vast resources of helpful people."
Officials with the school did not immediately return calls for comment on Thursday.
Park and Chea will be assigned attorneys at their arraignment at Queens Criminal Court later on Thursday, Brown's office said.
If convicted of the charges against them, Park faces up to seven years in prison. Chea faces up to a year in jail.
(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Sandra Maler)