English Teacher at Top School in China Fired Over Sexual Abuse Allegations
Shanghai American School (SAS) alumni have penned an open letter to the school’s administrators responding to backlash over the sexual misconduct allegations made against high school English teacher James Mikkelson.
Haeryun Kang, a former student at SAS, one of the top international schools in China, posted the letter on her Facebook account to shed light on the matter, and was initiated partly “by the backlash and doubt aimed at the victim(s), whose stories are in ‘Survivors of James Mikkelson’ blog.”
The aim of the letter is twofold: it would help put pressure on SAS administrators to “take steps toward preventing Mikkelson’s hiring at other educational institutions,” and voice their support for the victims of the sexual abuse by the hands of Mikkelson, a veteran English teacher of the school who is believed to be from Washington state.
The movement and open letter comes weeks after an investigation conducted in November found that Mikkelson, who taught at the school for 13 years, showed inappropriate sexual behavior towards some of his students.
Investigators found porn in Mikkelson’s school computer as well as messages that he reportedly sent to students, Shanghaiist reported.
“I am writing to let you know that James Mikkelson, high school English instructor on the Puxi campus, will no longer be teaching at SAS. Due to choices Mr. Mikkelson has made that are inconsistent with SAS standards for integrity and professionalism, we have dismissed him, effective today. We recommend that students at SAS have no further contact with him,” Head of School, Marcel Gauthier, said in a letter to the parents.
Shortly after Mikkelson’s termination, a blog focusing on the survivors of his sexual misconduct was published online. There, some of Mikkelson’s former students shared their stories about how the teacher molested them, sent them extremely inappropriate sexual messages and explicit pictures.
“James Mikkelson sexually abused me while I was a minor.
“Soon after I became his student, Mikkelson initiated explicit conversations with me about sex. These conversations occurred in person as well as through text, email, and chat. They soon escalated to expressing sexual desire for me and describing sexual fantasies involving me. While talking explicitly with a child about sex is in fact sufficient to constitute child sexual abuse, the abuse did not stop there. Mikkelson groped me at a school event. He sent me explicit photos and videos of himself. He invited me to locations outside of school where, after coaxing me into a relaxed state with alcohol that he purchased, he coerced me into performing sexual acts on him. He touched me sexually behind the closed doors of his classroom, on school property, in the middle of the school day. He had sexual intercourse with me. I was his student. I was a child,” the creator of the blog wrote as a response to an SAS alumnus who expressed his doubt regarding the whole purpose of the blog.
The Survivors of James Mikkelson blog has received more than 60 comments since it launched in early November. More students came forward to tell their own story, but what’s even more surprising is that one of Mikkelson’s former co-workers from Italy also found the blog and said the following:
“I work with Mikkelson in Milan many years ago. He was made to resign after many female students complained about his inappropriate behavior. In Milan the parents wanted him put in jail. In China they do not think the same I guess. We hear about this in Italy and call things what they are. This man is a child molester. Nothing more needs saying.”
The SAS officially revoked Mikkelson’s China work visa after letting him go on Nov. 7, and shared all the information they gathered during the investigation to Chinese and United States authorities, a spokesperson from the school told Shanghaiist.
There is no official word yet on what other punishments Mikkelson will face for his sexual abuse crimes, but SAS said in a separate letter that it will offer counseling to the victims and review protocol involving the case.
“We recognize that if the allegations in the blog are true, then great harm has been done. “Know that we have done all we can to ensure that Mr. Mikkelson does not teach again and to warn our community against having contact with him. Our goal is to have a concrete plan in place and shared with the SAS community before our winter holiday break.
“We have certainly responded with great care to anyone who has written us on the topic of Mr. Mikkelson’s departure and invited them to share further. To date, no alumnus has come forward and identified themselves. We stand ready to support them if and when they do,” the head of school wrote.