Sexual misconduct by teachers: A persistent problem in the news this week

Society & Culture

The news served as a grim reminder that sexual misconduct by teachers is a common problem in Chinese schools. In many cases, offenders are allowed to get away with their crimes because of a culture of covering up sexual abuse at schools, and the indifference of the authorities.In April, an unusually high number of stories about teachers engaging in sexually inappropriate behavior have made the news.

Two years ago, Lǐ Yìyì 李奕奕, a 19-year-old student from Gansu Province, jumped to her death from a shopping mall after being sexually assaulted by her high school teacher in 2016. After the attack, Li had tried to hold the perpetrators accountable through legal means, but her complaints were dismissed by the local court, which told her that the teacher’s behavior did not constitute a crime, and that there was no evidence. Meanwhile, she was grappling with severe depression, which led to several suicide attempts before her eventual fatal leap.

This week, Southern Metropolis Daily reported (in Chinese) that the teacher was convicted of “coercive indecency” and has been sentenced to two years in prison. He is also banned from teaching or taking up occupations that involve interacting with minors in the three years following his release.

The punishment, however, was considered insufficient by Li’s family and the vast majority of the public. Li’s father said that he would file an appeal to request a more severe sentence. On social media, he has received a groundswell of support, with many people expressing concerns about the teacher assaulting underage girls after the ban expires. “Only two years in jail after he ruined a girl’s life? That’s outrageously unfair,” a Weibo user wrote (in Chinese).

The news served as a grim reminder that sexual misconduct by teachers is a common problem in Chinese schools. In many cases, offenders are allowed to get away with their crimes because of a culture of covering up sexual abuse at schools, and the indifference of the authorities.

In April, an unusually high number of stories about teachers engaging in sexually inappropriate behavior have made the news. They include the following:

  • Zhōu Bèilěi 周贝蕾, a 26-year-old beauty blogger, revealed that she was molested by her middle school teacher 13 years ago. After she shared her story, more than 80 other women came forward with accusations against the alleged offender.
  • Early this week, a 13-year-old student in Jiangsu Province took to social media (in Chinese) to share screenshots of suggestive text messages sent by her teacher. On April 22, the local government said that the teacher had been fired after an internal investigation.
  • Last week, the government of Zhejiang’s Huzhou City published a statement (in Chinese) on Weibo, saying that the local police had arrested a middle school teacher after a group of students spoke out against his sexual harassment.
  • On April 1, education authorities in Shanghai announced (in Chinese) that a kindergarten teacher in the city’s Qingpu District had been arrested over allegations of child sexual abuse.