EDITING : 2024.3.5 화 15:38
The Gachon Herald
Time to Take Care of the Human Rights of TeachersWhat's the problem with unprotected teacher's authority?
Lee Hae-Jin  |  huckey@gachon.ac.kr
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Updated : 2024.01.01  18:32:14
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 What do you expect to be among 'the toughest things to do as a teacher' as selected by teachers? According to the statistical data of the Education Ministry, about 22.9% is said to be a violation of teaching rights. In addition, according to the announcement of the Korea Federation of Teacher's Associations in 2022, the number of counseling for infringement of teaching authority has exceed the highest value in the past 6 years. There are ten types of infringement of teachers' rights subdivided by the Teacher Status Act, and they include injury, assault, threat, obstruction of public affairs and work, and sexual violence crimes. I would like to explain the two types, dividing the subject of this infringement into students and parents.
 
1. The infringement of teachers’ right by students
 First, I would like to explain the instances in which teachers' right is invaded by students. According to the online survey results of the Office of Education, it is said that about 58.3% of the types of infringement of teaching authority by students are insults and defamation, about 11.7% are repeatedly and unfairly interfering with legitimate educational activities, about 7.4% are injuries, and assaults, and about 7.3% are actions that cause sexual humiliation or sexual disgust.
 
 
 A picture of a classroom in a middle school in Chungcheongnam-do was circulated on SNS in August and made headlines. It was a picture of a male student who lay next to the blackboard and used a smartphone with a charger plugged in while a female teacher was teaching in front of the blackboard. This act not only violated the educational activities completely, but also insulted teachers fully, so the student was severely punished.
 The second case was the infringement of teachers' rights in Sejong. It also became a hot topic such as a middle school in Chungcheongnam-do, because a student made sexual harassment comments to teachers in the teacher evaluation descriptive question. The student talked down to the five teachers, belittling their body parts or making sexual harassment remarks that I would not even mention. At first, the school and the Office of Education said that teacher evaluation could not specify the student because they had to guarantee anonymity, but when the matter became public, the student was expelled from school.
 After I investigated these two cases, I felt that as much as the students who violated teachers' rights, the school and the Ministry of Education were definitely responsible for not taking any measures before being publicized. Even if a teacher reported a violation of teaching authority like this, only about 65% received help from their fellow teachers, and about 22% didn't receive help. However, fortunately, after these two incidents, the Ministry of Education expanded the range of recognition for infringement of teaching rights. There was only a wide range of violations such as injuries, assault, intimidation, sexual harassment, and obstruction of work previously, but they made an effort to guarantee teaching rights more by adding "deliberate interference of classes." I felt the help of the Ministry of Education was desirable, and there was a need to make efforts to prevent infringement of teaching rights in the future.
 
2. The infringement of teachers’ right by school parents
 Do you know about the 'Seoicho Incident' that drew a great attention in July this year? This is a case of a teacher who killed herself at Seoi Elementary School in Seocho-gu, Seoul since she couldn't endure continuous complaints from school parents. On July 18, a first-grader teacher committed suicide in the teaching aids room, and the teacher was just 24 years old and had just started her career. The dead teacher was found before the students went to school, and her suicide note wasn't found. On July 20, countless teachers from all over the country sent wreaths in front of the front gate of Seoi Elementary School, and the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union planned a memorial ceremony. Around 11 a.m., Kwon Seon-tae, principal of Seoi Elementary School, sent family newsletters, but it was revised form, and it was disclosed that the reason was that the Parent-Teacher Association asked for a revision after reviewing it.
 At a meeting of superintendents of education around 1 p.m., Cho Hee-yeon, superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, emphasized the importance of protecting teachers' rights, saying, "Recently, various disruption of lessons, malicious complaints, and accusations are frequently made that incapacitate life guidance for students who commit school violence, and thereby there are extreme situations that educational activities are undermined and teachers' psychological and emotional stability cannot be maintained." Also, Jung Sung-Kuk, chairman of the Korea Federation of Teachers' Associations, said at a press conference, "There are so many cases where school parents visit only after hearing their children's story," "We are taking the current situation seriously as the collapse in teaching authority and the entire public education beyond the miserable tragedy of the teacher," and "The Office of Education must report serious violations of teaching rights to the investigative agency in order to protect schools and teachers and sound an alarm in society." In addition, numerous educators gave their opinion that "the teaching rights are too intimidated, and the rest are too overprotective."
 On July 21, former and current teachers at Seoi Elementary School anonymously reported to the Seoul Teachers' Union about their school parents' abuse of power. In summary, there were too many parent complaints in Seoi Elementary School from old times, there was a case where an aggressive student drew a pencil on the forehead of a student in the back seat in the dead's class, and the attacker and the victim's parents made numerous complaints to the deceased. In addition, the parent said to her 'You are not qualified as a teacher,' and psychologically pressured the deceased, who once said, "It is ten times harder than last year," but the school ordered all teachers to keep quiet.
 On July 22, more than 4,000 teachers voluntarily gathered on the street, dressed in black, and protested to ensure the right to live as a teacher. They requested us to guarantee basic rights as it leads to teachers' right to live, not just a simple problem of infringement of teaching authority. It's because the teacher killed herself without protecting her who suffered from their parents' abuse. Two days later, on July 24, the law on educational activities was revised and the parents of the attacker and victim of the pencil case started to be investigated. On July 27, it was revealed that the parents of Seoi Elementary School continued to raise absurd complaints, and the deceased asked the school for work-related counseling about 10 times, but the school corresponded poorly.
 On July 31, the police announced in their investigation that the parents of Seoi Elementary School were not confirmed, but on August 4, it was confirmed through the Ministry of Education and the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education that the deceased had talked to the parents several times before the death and she usually had excessive work. According to the questions and answers among reporters, parents' malicious complaints were not the only cause of the death, and lots of tasks at the end of the semester and troubles in guiding maladjusted students were also caused by a combination. Furthermore, except for the perpetrator of the pencil case, three more students felt it was difficult for the deceased to guide, and it wasn't revealed that parents related to the pencil case were the subject of malicious complaints.
 On August 14, the bereaved family offered the deceased's will and diary to the police, and on August 16, it was exposed that the deceased had been carrying out complaints from more than 10 parents. On August 23, since there wasn't progress in the investigation, the Practical Education Teachers' Association accused a total of four parents, including the parents of the pencil case of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office. Three days later, the sixth assembly was held pressing the memorial and the revision of the Child Welfare Law, and more than 60,000 people gathered. On August 30, the bereaved family applied for the treatment of the deceased's death, and the seventh assembly was held on September 2. Around 350,000 teachers, pre-service teachers, and citizens gathered, and it is the 'largest single occupational group'. On September 4, teachers from all over the country planned a collective strike as it was the 49th day since she died. It is also called the day of suspension of public education. As a result, more than 10% of teachers joined the strike, and the superintendent's response to it was divided. Cho Hee-yeon, the superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, supported protecting mourning teachers, while Lim Tae-hee, the superintendent of the Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education, has steadily expressed his position that he fully understands teachers but education should not be stopped beyond September 4.
 In September, there was no progress in the investigation than before, and some conspiracy theories circulated among citizens because the perpetrator's parents were not disclosed. On September 13, the parents of the pencil case sued the netizens for defamation, and on September 16, the eighth assembly resumed in two weeks. Six groups of teachers and about 30,000 people gathered for the plenary session on the 21st. On September 26, it was revealed that 366 parents of elementary schools in Gangnam had boasted about their complaints in anonymous group chatrooms for about two years. Teachers were anxious every day because of this, and some teachers whined that it was a witch hunt.
 On October 2, the Parents' Association stated to convey consolation and support on Post-it for the deceased and teachers affected by the infringement of teaching authority, but the public's response was icy. The reason is that their attitude of pretending not to know the pain of teachers and trying to take a step only after things get bigger seems fabricated. On the 10th, more than a week later, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency announced officially that they had found no evidence or criminal suspicion against the parents. The investigation has been completed. The bereaved family raised an issue with the investigation, and the police are currently investigating the defamation case against the parents of the pencil case. On November 14, the police investigation ended.

 So far, I have explained the infringement of teaching rights by students and parents. Since the sexual harassment and the case about the student using his smartphone lying on the teacher's platform that I mentioned before was publicized, many people have made opinions to protect teachers' rights, but I feel regrettable about the reality that many people paid attention only after a teacher had taken her own life. According to the result of a survey in 2022 by the Korea Federation of Teachers' Associations, about 51.7% of teachers simply endured or solved it alone, and only about 2.2% responded that they held a teachers' rights protection committee when their educational activities were violated. Thus, there is a need for the Ministry of Education or the school to protect teachers safely. Also, they should educate students to have a right recognition about teaching rights and correct the order of rank between teachers and students. To do so, the public needs to watch it with interest to protect the teachers' rights, so let's not forget the Seoi Elementary School incident and constantly speak out for teachers.
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