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Leniency for bullies must not be condoned

Posted February. 01, 2019 07:42,   

Updated February. 01, 2019 07:42


Under the Education Ministry’s new policy on school violence, which was revealed Wednesday, bullies who have fulfilled the hours of voluntary activities can have the records on their wrongdoings expunged from their school file. Cases of minor assaults can be settled by schools without convening an autonomous committee on school violence.

The revised plan was drawn up amidst the public criticism over the current system, which they claim fuels disputes and suffocates school’s educational function. Under the current system, a simple swearing by a schoolmate will precipitate a committee meeting. And his wrongdoings are recorded on his file. Even minor disputes are recorded, and this is prodding an increasing number of parents who are concerned about their kids’ prospect for college entrance tests into suing the school and the parents on the other side.

The revised policy was a chance for me to look back on my childhood where everyone grew up, fighting each other. The first impression was that the new policy was designed to strengthen the educational aspect of disputes settlements where students can engage and communicate with each other.

When I heard the stories from victims’ parents, however, I had to admit to my lack of understanding.“If the penalty is too lenient, they think they can just get away with anything. Place yourself in my shoes; your kids are hurt by school violence, they see a therapist, and they cannot even go to school. The top priority should always be the victim. What is important is recovery of victims. But the revised plan does not have such consideration.”

The Dong-A Ilbo had an interview with the mother in Daegu whose middle-school child killed himself after suffering school violence in 2011. The tragedy prompted the implementation of the current system to monitor school violence with stricter penalty rules. It appears that this journalist, who thought of school disputes simply as part of childhood, as well as the policymakers, who have loosened the grip on minor assaults at school, may have overlooked the most important part of the equation: the victims’ despair.

Even minor violence ends up sowing more serous forms of violence over iterations. Monitoring policy that is designed to favor the perpetuators, rather than the victims, will eventually leave them with bigger scars. It is vital that the policy should be revisited and improved for victims, before the start of a new semester.

Youn-Jong Kim zozo@donga.com