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  • Yoon Su-hyeon

[Feature] Student's Right and Teacher's Right: Any Chance of Co-existing?

No.165 / Sep 4, 2023

The tragic suicide of an elementary school teacher committed on July 18, 2023, has provoked citizens’ indignation. In Seoi Elementary School, Seocho-gu, a homeroom teacher was found dead in her own school classroom. Allegedly the reason the 23-year-old newcomer teacher took her own life was due to the stress from verbal abuse by some parents of her students. The story rapidly spread online that the young teacher had been suffering from parent complaints while in charge of resolving school violence.

The bereaved family urged to find out the truth, saying, “It should be clarified what caused the young teacher to make an extreme choice at school.” A, uncle of the victim, the Seoul Teachers’ Union, and the National Elementary School Teachers’ Union held a press conference in front of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education in Jongno-gu, Seoul, on July 19, 2023, and demanded that the Office of Education be held responsible. A stated that he hoped that the truth of the incident would be properly investigated so that the death of the deceased would not be in vain. He also drew a clear line to some media outlets that cited some of the deceased’s diaries and raised the possibility that the reason for the suicide might be the breakup with her boyfriend.

This appalling incident has triggered the revelation of untold stories of teachers suffering from the ridiculously strict and absurd demands of parents and misbehaving students. The Korean Teachers’ Association called for a complete revision or abolition of the ordinance, saying, “The fall in teaching rights was triggered by the enactment of the Student Human Rights Ordinance.”

On July 20, 2023, they announced, “It is a serious issue that should be regarded as the fall of the teaching authority, and it is tantamount to the collapse of Korea’s education.” The statement followed, “We need to prevent serious damage to the school authority at the school site, and the whole society should work together to solve such an unfortunate thing so that it doesn’t happen anymore.” They explicitly indicated that the Student Human Rights Ordinance has many side effects. In particular, because of emphasizing only the rights of students through the Student Human Rights Ordinance, it is seriously undermining teaching rights in line with the reality that accusations of child abuse are being filed.

However, some viewpoints suggest that it is never fair to blame the Student Human Rights Ordinance for everything. If all the problems are concluded to be derived from the Student Human Rights Ordinance, the educational system may as well not be able to come up with fundamental measures by dividing teachers, students, and parents. Park Geun-byung, Chairman of the Seoul Teachers’ Union, also said, “The issue of the Student Human Rights Ordinance is blurring the nature of the incident,” adding, “What is needed now is to find out the cause of the teacher’s death and prevent a recurrence.” Park Nam-ki, a professor at the Gwangju National University of Education, said, “The educational authorities’ lukewarm response, the issue of low-grade teacher assignment, and malicious reports targeting teachers riding on the Child Abuse Act are at play.”


By Yoon Su-hyeon, AG Reporter

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