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  • Yoon Su-hyeon

[Feature] Special Education Instructors Always Looking Over Their Shoulder

No.165 / Sep 4, 2023

Web cartoonist Joo Ho-min, most well-known for his work Along with the Gods, pressed charges against the teacher in charge of his autistic son at school for child abuse. This unusual affair quickly emerged as a big topic of conversation for several reasons, including the drift of public opinion on recent issues on damaged authorities of educators.

Here is what really went down. Earlier in September 2022, Joo’s son, who is autistic, was separated from the rest of the students under the pretext of school violence by a special class teacher A. It was a measure taken to stop him from lowering his pants in front of a female student while the teacher was teaching a class of students without disabilities. The female student said that she was traumatized by the incident and had difficulty going to school for a while. After the separation, Joo’s son refused to go to school expressing how upset he was. To uncover the reason for his strange refusal to go to school, Joo and his wife installed a recorder in their son’s bag. The recording included A’s frustration in the process of stopping the inappropriate behavior of their son. According to a report written by A during the investigation, she told Joo’s son “It is wrong to pull down your pants in front of other female students” trying to teach her student the concept of “wrongdoings” that happened during class. She continued to scold him saying, “That is why you are not staying with your friends right now.” Based on those recorded utterances, Joo filed a suit against A. The 9th Criminal Division of the Suwon District Court is conducting a trial against A on charges of violating the Special Act on the Punishment of Child Abuse Crimes. The prosecution judged that A may have been showing an uncaring and aggressive attitude toward her student. When the news got out, Joo had to face mass criticism for his radical measure on the matter. In addition, it was revealed that other parents submitted a petition to the court asking for leniency at the teacher’s request. Fellow teachers at the school also stated that Joo’s son had many problematic behaviors that caused difficulty while teaching, such as hitting teachers or other students. As of July 31, 2023, A was officially reinstated in the name of the authority of the superintendent of education of Gyeonggi-do.

There are concerns that when unauthorized recording or improper intervention of school parents continues in classrooms leaving no room for mutual trust among parents, students, and teachers, teachers might not be able to provide education with enough autonomy. Some indicate that distrust and doubt will eventually draw a debasing influence on the special education field creating a meager work environment and lowering the recruitment rate of special instructors.

The debate on whether A’s conduct was scolding or abusing continues. With this matter on the rise, difficulties, and limitations in the special education system in Korea are also gaining attention. Special education is a field that requires a very subtle and sophisticated approach since it should not only provide academic education but also emotional and physical care. The Special Education Act requires four students per teacher, but there are a lot of cases where a single teacher oversees more than nine students. It is not an overstatement to say this “Joo Ho-min incident” started from the segmented special education delivery systems, followed by supply dissonance.

 

By Yoon Su-hyeon, AG Reporter

suhyeonryoon@ajou.ac.kr

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