16 teachers accused of sexually harassing girls

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16 teachers accused of sexually harassing girls

Sixteen male teachers at a girls’ high school in Gwangju are being investigated for alleged sexual harassment of some 180 students, including groping of girls.

The Gwangju Education Office said Tuesday it asked local police to investigate 16 male teachers who allegedly verbally abused and physically assaulted students.

A group of students informed the principal about the sexual harassment on July 18, according to the school.

The school conducted an internal survey of its 860 students, of whom around 180 claimed to have been sexually harassed by male teachers.

The school reported the results to the Gwangju Education Office, which conducted another survey of the students to identify the teachers in question on July 31. The private high school employs 39 male and 18 female teachers.

The education office said 16 teachers have been barred from teaching or meeting any of the students since they were identified.

According to the survey results, the male teachers verbally abused the students with statements including, “That girl has a great body and big behind,” “It’s disgusting if fat women wear skirts,” or “Women are baby-making machines.”

The education office said some students claimed the teachers groped their bodies, including their waists and buttocks. Students also alleged that some teachers threatened them to keep them from telling others about their conduct.

The Nambu Police Precinct in Gwangju assigned 13 police officers to the case. They intend to individually interview the students to determine the extent of the alleged abuse.

The Gwangju Education Office is dispatching part-time teachers to the school to fill in for the suspended teachers.

The office will also dispatch eight counselors to the school.

There are allegations that the sexual harassment by male teachers at the school may have gone on for at least eight years. A 25-year-old graduate of the school told the Chosun Ilbo on Monday that the circumstances were similar in 2010, when teachers at the school “would make sexual comments in classes but none of the students knew how to react because they were all afraid they may face disadvantages in preparing for their college entrance exams and teacher recommendations.”

The office said it will be inspecting other schools in the city as well.

“Parents at other schools in the area came up to me asking if something like this could be happening in other schools,” Jang Hui-gook, head of the Gwangju Education Office, said in a staff meeting at the education office on Monday. “We will be inspecting other schools.”

BY KIM HO, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]
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