In Vietnam, family wins suit against school after child blinded by flung ruler

The ruler hit the girl in her left eye after it was thrown by a classmate attempting to hit another boy

The court session for the family of Vu Phuong Anh’s lawsuit against Hai An Elementary School on May 16, 2017

A family in Vietnam was awarded VND109 million (US$4,800) in damages from their daughter’s elementary school after a ruler flung by another student left their daughter blind in one eye.

The ruler hit the girl in her left eye after it was thrown by a classmate attempting to hit another boy.

According to the indictment, Le Ngoc Tuan and Nguyen Huu Quoc Bao, both first-graders at Hai An Elementary School in north-central Thanh Hoa Province, were playing at break time on January 15, 2016 when Tuan threw a broken ruler at Bao.

The ruler missed its intended target, instead hurtling into the left eye of classmate Vu Phuong Anh.

Anh’s homeroom teacher immediately brought her to the communal clinic and informed her parents of the incident.

Once the clinic realized the severity of Anh’s situation, they had her transferred to the National Hospital of Ophthalmology in Hanoi for treatment.

Doctors at the hospital were able to diagnose Anh with a broken eyeball, intraocular disorganization, retinal detachment, and intraocular hemorrhage, with the prognosis being permanent blindness in her left eye.

The Parents Association of Hai An Elementary School provided the family with VND10 million ($445) in support during Anh’s time in hospital.

After Anh was discharged from the hospital, school representatives visited the family and offered them an additional VND15 million ($670), but the offer was refused.

The family of Tuan, the boy who threw the ruler and caused Anh’s injury, also paid Anh’s family VND4 million ($180) in voluntary compensation.

According to Anh’s mother Nguyen Thi Ha, the school demonstrated a lack of responsibility after the incident and was slow to issue paperwork confirming that the girl was a student at the school, thereby forfeiting her health insurance coverage during treatment.

The family requested to meet with the school board multiple times and sent many unanswered letters to the district's education division demanding a resolution to the problem.

Anh eventually returned to school to begin the difficult journey of restarting first grade, her mother said.

The family initially filed a claim for VND300 million ($13,000) in damages from the school.

At the court session on Tuesday morning, Dinh Thi Huong, headmistress at Hai An Elementary School, said school regulations dictate that students are not to play with hard, dangerous objects.

Nevertheless, Huong refused to accept responsibility and did not comply with the family’s compensation requests.

The presiding justice eventually ruled that Hai An Elementary School was to pay VND109 million in compensation to Anh’s family.

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