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  • 작성자 사진Kim Min-ji

[Feature] When Students Rights Entered the School Gate, Did the Teacher's Authority Get Expelled?

No.165 / Sep 4, 2023

Teachers’ status collapsed to the extent that they were reported for violating student human rights simply by imposing sanctions on students who consumed cup noodles during class. Even just a few decades ago, a punishment tool, that is, using a cane to hit students gently to lead them on the right path, was allowed in schools. There was a time when there were few students or parents who would complain of injustice to the corporal punishment for trivial reasons, such as going to school without wearing a school uniform tie or being late for school. In Korean society, why has not only unreasonable physical punishment but also teacher discipline been eliminated from schools in just a few decades?

As time passed, interest in the human rights of the so-called socially underprivileged, including adolescents, has increased. Nevertheless, there are still conflicting views on them. From the standpoint of emphasizing the social position of adolescents as students, school education is regarded as a very important socialization mechanism because adolescence is a process of preparation for becoming an adult. The Framework Act on Education, which has been amended since 1998 and maintains, represents the above-mentioned viewpoint. It is mentioned that “Students, as learners, must abide by school rules, and must not interfere with teaching/research activities of teachers or disrupt order in the school.” This emphasizes that certain discipline is required to efficiently educate and manage many students within a limited space, and that inevitably students’ rights are restricted in this process.

However, from the standpoint of emphasizing the position of adolescents as an independent human being, discipline most often was made regardless of the opinions of students who are subject to it and was used to control students. Representing this point of view is the ordinance of the students’ rights, which began to be implemented at the local government level starting with Gyeonggi-do in the early 2010s. The ordinance of the students’ rights raised problems with practices, such as corporal punishment, restrictions on hair and clothing, and inspection of belongings, and these practices disappeared in school. If it is an unfair practice, it is justifiable to abolish it. However, the ordinance of the students’ rights should not act as an unconditional shield for students in the name of student human rights. Due to the abuse of the student human rights ordinance, the phenomenon of avoiding the position being assigned as homeroom teachers increases.

Korean teachers have no accepted means when they discipline their students. In contrast in the United States (U.S.), delinquent youth are not taught by general teachers, but by the Dean, who specializes in disciplining delinquent youth, and conducts classes in the detention room. He or she has the power of limited suspension. In the U.S., schools have the right to immediately summon parents if a student causes a problem, and if parents do not visit the school immediately, they may be charged with neglect. In order to restore teacher’s authority, we must come up with practical measures like the U.S. Also, it is time for the student human rights issue to be reborn as a result of step-by-step progress through communication at the school level, not in the form of an ordinance handed down from top to bottom.


By Kim Min-ji, AG Senior Editor

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