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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Government moves to shield teachers from false accusations

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An elementary school classroom in Yeonggwang County, South Jeolla [YONHAP]
An elementary school classroom in Yeonggwang County, South Jeolla [YONHAP]

The government will seek to enhance teachers’ rights by granting them immunity from child abuse charges in situations where no abuse was intended.

If the police or a local government office wish to investigate a teacher for child abuse suspicions, they must solicit the opinion of a regional education office before initiating the probe.

The measures were part of the Ministry of Education’s draft of the so-called Comprehensive Measures for Restoring and Strengthening Educational Authority.

While revealing the measures in a hearing at the National Assembly in Yeouido, western Seoul, on Monday, the ministry said it will take steps to amend the law and create manuals to “formalize the scope and methods of appropriate teacher guidance.”

“We will announce the final version later this month after taking into account various on-site opinions, and actively participate in the National Assembly’s legislative process to ensure that schools tangibly experience the restoration of educational authority,” said Vice Education Minister Jang Sang-yoon.

The draft came weeks after a 23-year-old first-grade teacher in Seocho District, southern Seoul, committed suicide due to suspected harassment by the parents of a student involved in school violence.

The case triggered a nationwide outcry among schoolteachers who contend that their rights and authority have been overshadowed by an undue emphasis on students’ rights.

In interviews with local media, teachers have further confessed instances of facing verbal and emotional abuse from confrontational parents, enduring a stream of text messages after work hours and being wrongly accused of child abuse.

In the wake of the teacher protests, President Yoon Suk Yeol urged the Education Ministry to promptly issue notices and revise regional education ordinances to bolster teachers’ authority, with the aim of implementing them in the second semester.

The second semester has already begun or is about to begin in the coming days for most schools across the nation.

The Education Ministry said it will also push to revise the Student Rights Ordinance to enhance students’ responsibilities and obligations.

While the current ordinance allows students to possess and manage personal items such as cell phones without interference from their teachers, the proposed amendment will introduce the possibility of confiscating and separately storing items that disrupt classes if warnings are not heeded.

Earlier on Monday, the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education announced plans to revise its own student rights ordinance to strengthen students’ obligation to respect the human rights of educational staff.

BY CHOI MIN-JI, LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]