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[Op-Ed] Teacher Protection Law

Posted July. 24, 2009 08:15,   


A few days ago, a parent rushed into a 12th-grade classroom at a Daegu high school. Carrying a pickaxe, he entered the classroom and said, “Who made fun of my son?” The man made a ruckus by shattering the windows of a corridor and a teachers’ room before police arrested him. In May, a 20-something mentally ill man broke into a girls’ high school in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province, and attacked students attending late classes. The saying “Even a teacher’s shadow must not be trodden” has long been forgotten.

The Korea Federation of Teachers’ Association said violations of teachers’ rights rose from 104 instances in 2001 to 249 last year. Among them, 92 cases or 37 percent were committed by parents in the form of violent words or actions and blackmail. Most parents have a child or two, so they are unwilling to accept corporal punishment on their children, which leads to violation of teachers’ rights. When a teacher is humiliated or beaten in front of his or her students, the impact has a ripple effect.

Ruling Grand National Party lawmaker Cho Jeon-hyuk has sponsored a bill on better protecting teachers, including requiring parents to get consent from principals or teachers before visiting a school. The rights of teacher and student groups should be protected under any circumstance, but the proposal to require parents to get consent from a principal or teacher to visit a school seems unreasonable. Parents who have children in elementary school have to visit schools frequently to help cleaning or handing out meals to children, but if they are considered potential criminals, it makes little sense.

While U.S. president-elect, Barack Obama consulted the homeroom teachers of his two daughters for their transfer instead of his wife Michelle. One of the world’s busiest men took time out to visit his daughters’ school. Obama is considered a nice and good daddy, but it is a common practice for American parents to visit their children’s schools. Parents serve as assistants in field trips or art classes. It is worrisome that the new bill in Korea could build another barrier between teachers and parents in a country suffering from lack of communication.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)