By Casey Quackenbush
November 27, 2017

A public firestorm has erupted in China over allegations of teachers abusing children at a kindergarten in Beijing. At the kindergarten in Xintiandi run by RYB Education, a New York-listed education chain that is well known in China, children were allegedly given pills, pierced with needles, forced to strip naked, and possibly sexually molested, according to the New York Times. One teacher has been detained in relation to the allegations, though the public anger does not look likely to soon dissipate.

Here’s what you need to know:

What Happened?

Several parents recently discovered needle marks on their children’s bodies, with eight students allegedly injected with unidentified substances. Their reports also include accounts of teachers administering pills to the children after lunch everyday and forcing them to strip naked. Some parents are alleging sexual abuse.

“Disobedient students were also forced to stand naked or were locked up in a dark room at the kindergarten,” one parent told Caixin Global, the BBC reports. RYB Education issued a statement on Thursday apologizing for the “severe disquiet” of the matter, according to the BBC. “If any wrongdoing is found, we will not shake off the responsibility. And we have also reported to the police some false accusations against us,” the statement read.

Beijing police and education officials have not confirmed any of the allegations, but Xinhua, China’s official news agency, reported that a 22-year-old teacher had been fired “on suspicion of mistreating persons in her care,” according to the New York Times.

How Did the Public React?

Photos and reports of the alleged abuse spread quickly and sparked outrage on social media. Chinese censors usually quell public outrage online, but have reportedly struggled to do so amid the parental wrath.

In a tearful video that went viral in China, one woman told reporters: “The teacher told the kids, ‘I’ve got a long, long telescope that can see right into your home, and I’ll know just what you’ve been saying and doing.’ How could a child not be scared?” she said, according to the Times. “That’s why the kids didn’t dare tell their parents.”

On Thursday, parents gathered outside the school gates demanding answers, while others have pulled their children out. Classes remain in session.

How Big Is the Problem?

So far, to be determined. One teacher has been detained, but abuse of children left in the care of professionals is believed to be widespread, as China’s childcare and education sectors rapidly expand. Just a few weeks ago, footage of what appeared to bet abuse at a nursery in Shanghai went viral. Last year, at another RYB nursery in Jilin province, four teachers were jailed for injecting students, and reports circulated of one child pierced with more than 50 needle marks, according to BBC.

Permanent inspectors have also been hired to oversee kindergartens throughout Beijing, Reuters reports.

Write to Casey Quackenbush at casey.quackenbush@timeinc.com.

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