"Mommy's Washcloth" publishers hung out to dry

The Shanghai company that had published a homework book with offensive content has been fined 115,000 yuan (US$17,000) and had its business license revoked.

A Shanghai company that had published a homework book with offensive content has been fined 115,000 yuan (US$17,000) and had its business license revoked.

A total of 354 books have also been confiscated, according to a statement by the national office against pornography and illegal publications.

The problem came into light in January when a picture appeared online showing a page from a book of English homework for the eighth grade at the SMIC Private School, published by Shanghai Dongfang Laser Education Culture Co.

Students were required to read a story called “Mommy’s Washcloth” and add their comments. The story in question was a well-known, and very old joke, totally unsuitable for children.

An investigation found that the approved business scope for Shanghai Dongfang Laser Education Culture Co included sales of books, newspapers, journals and digital publications, but did not included publishing.

The company printed 500 copies of the book in December last year without approval or authorization from the copyright owner of the book series — the China Atomic Energy Press.

The education bureau in the Pudong New Area, where the SMIC Private School is located, has imposed an administrative penalty on the school for purchasing and using illegal publications. The school will not pass its annual inspection and its annual enrollment will be reduced, authorities said.

The education bureau has also ordered the school board to punish the three people in charge of the issue, including the principal.

The bureau launched a comprehensive investigation of all schools in the aftermath and found some teachers at Luoshan Middle School had purchased the book — the education bureau has issued demerits to the school principal and others responsible.

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