Following Miao’s death, her parents turned to the internet for answers. They posted photos online of her classwork from that tragic day: an essay on a story from Chinese classic novel Journey to the West. Yuan had crossed out parts of Miao’s essay where she mentioned the idea that “some people are dark inside and disguise themselves to get what they want,” and above it wrote, “Please show positive energy!”
“I think my daughter was just trying to see things from a unique angle. It’s not negative energy like the teacher said,” Miao’s father said. In a written statement, Yuan said she had asked Miao to “add a specific example from real life and nothing else.”
The family had voiced suspicions that Yuan had humiliated, scolded or even beat Miao during class, which Yuan denied in her statement.
A police investigation with local education authorities concluded no abuse had occurred in the class that day, and surveillance video ruled out any other suspicions of foul play in Miao’s death.
“With this step, law enforcement fulfilled their duties,” said Lei Siming, a lawyer from Guanheng Law Firm in Beijing.
But Miao’s parents are not satisfied with the investigation. “They just released the results of the investigation but did not explain why our outgoing daughter suddenly went to such extremes,” her father told media.
“In such cases, the most difficult thing is to reconstruct what happened and find out the reasons,” Lei said. “If it was a failed suicide attempt, there is still a way to find the reason. But if the child dies, parents often believe the explanations from the school and teachers are unconvincing and biased.”
Miao’s father attempted to reach the parents of Miao’s classmates for more information, but few would speak with him. Those who did told conflicting stories. Miao’s friends removed her account from their WeChat groups the day of her death, screenshots her parents posted online show.
When interviewed by police, Miao’s classmates denied knowledge of it, raising the suspicions of Miao’s parents and those following the case.
“Even if something happened in the class and Miao’s classmates witnessed it, the victim’s parents often doubt their objectivity,” Lei said. After Miao’s death, many parents defended Yuan with thumbs-up emojis in the class WeChat group.
In a follow-up investigation, the local education bureau found Yuan was tutoring students over the 2019 summer holiday for payment, which is prohibited. Miao was among the few students in Yuan’s class not attending the sessions.
Miao’s parents suggested that Yuan might have targeted their daughter. She admitted that in October 2019 she once slapped Miao for not finishing all her classwork. After the case attracted more attention, former students of Yuan came forward online with accusations of abuse, which further cemented Miao’s parents’ conviction there was more to their daughter’s death.
Miao’s parents also questioned the school’s handling of the suicide. According to Miao’s father, the school did not notify the family until 30 minutes after Miao jumped. “A doctor told me she was dead on arrival at the hospital,” Miao’s father said. In a Weibo post, the family expressed doubts over the school’s response time to the tragedy.
Pan Jianhua, an education official in Changzhou, told NewsChina that Yuan and the school called administrators and emergency responders immediately.
“Student suicides can affect a school’s reputation. [The school’s administration] probably discussed with local education authorities how to handle the situation before informing the parents,” Xiong said.
Miao’s father pinned his hopes on the local education bureau, which promised to investigate the case on June 18. Three weeks later, their report repeated Yuan’s previously known ethics violations and demoted her as punishment, mentioning no additional details about Miao’s death.
For such cases, Lei suggested an independent mediation committee made up of experts in fields such as education and law to more thoroughly analyze the case.