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December 8, 2017

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Shanghai American School sacks US teacher in sex abuse claims

LOCAL authorities confirmed yesterday that the work and residence permits of an American teacher — fired by the Shanghai American School (SAS) for alleged sexual abuse of students — were revoked last month due to “termination of employment.”

Authorities are now looking into the case to decide whether further action is needed.

According to Shanghaiist’s English language WeChat, James Mikkelson had been teaching English at the school — one of the top international schools in Shanghai — for 13 years and his inappropriate contacts with students only came to light in September.

The school hasn’t responded to requests for comment.

Mikkelson was fired by the school on November 7 “following an investigation into some concerning reports regarding inappropriate relationships with former students,” the Shanghaiist article said, adding that the school had also revoked his work visa upon his dismissal, and shared evidence of his alleged illicit behavior with authorities in both China and the United States. It’s unclear if Mikkelson is still in China.

The article quoted Marcel Gauthier, principal of school, as saying that the investigation had found pornography on Mikkelson’s school computer and sexually explicit messages sent to students.

After his dismissal was made public, some people who said they were either his former students or colleagues shared on the Internet more details of what they called improper behavior.

Shanghaiist pointed to a blog “Survivors of James Mikkelson,” created by a former student, who claimed to be one of the victims. The blog asked people with similar experiences to “connect with one another, share their stories, and have their voices heard.”

In a lengthy post, the blog detailed allegations against Mikkelson of personal experiences, including sexual abuse, groping, and sexual intercourse.

The blog’s author said Mikkelson had capitalized on “her vulnerability” as she had difficulties with her family. Having gained her trust, Mikkelson began to initiate explicit conversations. She said he described “sexual fantasies” involving her, groped her and sent her explicit videos of himself.

“He invited me to locations outside of school where, after coaxing me into a relaxed state with alcohol, 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 former student said she had concrete evidence, including “e-mails full of sexual content”and “chat logs that reveal the painstaking and gradual process of my being groomed.”

Another former student also posted accusations occurring a decade ago about Mikkelson’s inappropriate behavior. “Even back when was I at SAS nearly 10 years ago, you’d hear little bits and pieces about how he’d text some of his favorite female students privately, give them nicknames, not to mention the slightly creepy sexual innuendos he’d make.”

Some people who had worked with Mikkeson were also quoted from the “survivors” blog.

One, who said she had taught at the school for many years, said Mikkelson “sent one of his naked pics to me and I was so embarrassed and angry. When I pointed the inappropriate behavior, he immediately blocked me ... He seemed to be a very kind and knowledgable person, but he actually is evil.”

Another contributor said Mikkelson had behaved in a similar manner when teaching in a school in Milan, Italy, and alleged he was forced to resign after many female students complained about him.

SAS alumni penned an open letter to urge the school to “take steps toward preventing Mikkelson’s hiring at other educational institutions,” and have solicited dozens of signatures, Shanghaiist said.


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