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2019-03-29 02:46:54

Six staff members at a kindergarten in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen were punished this week after parents said a teacher had photographed students’ genitals, according to local police and the school.

In a statement Wednesday evening on social platform Weibo, Futian District police said that six staff members at Shenzhen Meilin Kindergarten were being held responsible under the country’s Public Security Administration Punishment Law for the photographs, which had been taken on March 20 without parents’ knowledge or consent. Of the six, three female staff members — surnamed Ren, Zhao, and Yu — had each been given administrative detention for five days, and a male teacher surnamed Zhang was fined 500 yuan ($74).

The statement said the two others found at fault — the kindergarten director, surnamed Xiao, and the school’s founder, also surnamed Ren — were legally exempt from the 10-day administrative detention they would have otherwise received under that law, since the former is a breastfeeding mother and the latter is over 70 years old. But less than 20 minutes after the police announcement, the local education bureau published a statement calling for the kindergarten to fire Xiao and the founder Ren, as well as issue an apology.

When Sixth Tone called the kindergarten Thursday, an individual who answered the phone but refused to identify herself said that the two had in fact been dismissed and that the students involved had all resumed taking classes at the kindergarten.

Chinese media outlets first reported on the photographs Sunday. In a report by Sixth tone’s sister publication, The Paper, parents said they learned from their children Friday that more than 10 boys had had pictures taken of their genitals. They went to the kindergarten to investigate the issue and were told that Zhao, the teacher of the class, had taken the photos to send to a doctor for visual examination. Unconvinced, some parents then called the local police and education bureau to report the photographs.

In a local news broadcast Tuesday, parents said they had found a large number of photos of boys’ genitals on Zhao’s phone. The photos had reportedly been sent to at least two of Zhao’s contacts on social app WeChat. The recipients had complained about the blurriness of the photos, directed Zhao to take photos from different angles, and asked for the names and birthdays of the children, according to screenshots of the conversations. One parent said 16 boys had been photographed, while another told the outlet that her son said every boy in the class had been photographed in three separate instances on March 20.

In Wednesday’s statement, local police confirmed that the “pictures were not used for medical purposes” but did not say why the photos had in fact been taken. Comments below the police’s Weibo post are hidden from public view — a privacy option that the platform allows any account to enable for its posts. But many netizens have reposted the announcement along with their own remarks about the photographs and the staff members’ punishments.

“This punishment is too light!!” one user wrote Thursday. “Why not check where these photos are being circulated?”

“Taking private photos of the boys in an entire class and sharing them on WeChat only warrants this punishment?” another user asked Thursday in disbelief.

“They are being punished for taking these photos without parents’ approval, but could they take the photos with parents’ consent?” the post continued. “This is not just a matter of parental consent, is it?!”

Editor: Layne Flower.

(Header image: VCG)