School, officials tried to cover up sexual misconduct

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School, officials tried to cover up sexual misconduct

The Ministry of Education ordered a municipal education office to impose serious disciplinary action against a teacher who had inappropriate sexual contact with four girls at the Busan School for the Blind in Busan, South Gyeongsang.

The ministry also asked the Busan Office of Education to discipline seven school administrators and five officials from the education office for colluding to cover up the case after the victims reported the incident.

Among the seven administrators at the school are a former principal, a vice principal and a school nurse. Further details about the victims could not be confirmed.

The 32 year-old instructor regularly sexually assaulted the girls between 2010 and July 2013, the Education Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that revealed the results of a special inspection.

In light of the incident, the school held a 30-minute internal meeting in which they decided to handle the case by asking the teacher to apologize, forgoing further investigation.

School officials neglected to make a record of their discussions or of the meeting.

The school’s nurse – who was responsible for counseling students and providing health education – also allegedly conducted a group counseling session that only lasted 16 minutes. The ministry noted that the nurse tried to convince the victims that the sexual advances were gestures of encouragement and support.

School administrators apparently reported the case as a minor incident to the city education office, with one school staff member threatening inspectors at the education office, demanding they not conduct a thorough investigation and citing a connection to high-ranking government officials.

The ministry accused the city education office of colluding to cover up the case and neglecting their duties. It also ordered serious disciplinary action against two inspectors in charge of overseeing special education institutes. The other education office workers received less strict punishments, including salary cuts.

The Busan office will decide on specific punitive measures based on the ministry’s recommendations and will come up with regulations that prevent further crimes.

Serious corrective measures include suspension and termination.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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