Three kindergarten teachers in northeast China have been detained on suspicion of physically abusing pupils in their care, including stabbing them with toothpicks, according to local media reports.
Police in Shenyang, Liaoning province, launched an investigation into the Kubeiland Emile International Kindergarten after receiving complaints from parents that at least 15 of its pupils had been abused by staff.
"They [pupils] would be pricked if they couldn't finish their meal, or moved during nap time or didn't dance well," one parent was quoted as saying by China Business Journal.
The youngsters were even warned that if they spoke out about the punishments they received there would be worse to come, another parent said.
Several parents had medical records and photographs showing multiple prick marks on their children's hands, legs, bottoms and abdomens, the report said.
Another parent said the school even tried to cover up the abuse by sending children who bled after being pricked to the school clinic to have their wounds cleaned up and sterilised.
In a report by video news website Pear Video, a mother was quoted as saying that she became suspicious after catching her son stabbing other children with a toothpick. When she challenged him about it, the boy said he was copying his teacher.
A father of another of the pupils echoed the claim that the children were warned not to report the abuse.
"He [the man's son] said a teacher told them she could see and hear them talking to their parents, so they must not tell."
The police officer in charge of the case said that three people had been detained pending a full investigation into the allegations.
However, Su Ning, the kindergarten's legal representative, dismissed claims children had been abused and said the school had provided footage from its surveillance cameras that would invalidate the charges.
Accusations of child abuse in schools are not uncommon in China. Last month, eight teachers from a nursery in Shanghai were sentenced to prison terms of up to 18 months for roughly handling young children and force feeding them mustard.