Two students attending a private high school in Jinju, South Gyeongsang, died less than two weeks apart in separate instances of school violence, fueling questions over whether the school and the provincial education office took appropriate preventive measures.
A 15-year-old student, identified by his surname Ryu, at Jinju Foreign Language High School died early Saturday after he was kicked in the abdomen by an older student surnamed Kim, authorities said.
According to the Jinju Police Precinct, the incident started when Ryu and his classmate, surnamed Moon, attempted to leave their dormitory around 11 p.m. on Friday. Kim, a junior in charge of overseeing all sophomores, suspected the two were on their way to have a fight, as they had not been getting along over the past month.
When Kim confronted the boys and asked them where they were going, they replied that they were just going out to talk. Unconvinced, Kim punched Moon in the chest and kicked Ryu in the abdomen, after which Ryu lost consciousness.
The victim was taken to a nearby hospital but was pronounced dead at 12:28 a.m. on Saturday. Authorities said they will conduct an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.
Police charged Kim with foul play yesterday, adding that the suspect had no previous record of violence.
Kim’s death comes less than two weeks after another 15-year-old student, whose identity has not been disclosed, died after a fistfight with one of his peers on March 31 on the roof of a campus building.
The fact that Jinju Foreign Language High School has had two fatal accidents over a two-week period has sparked criticism that its board has failed to address the issue of school violence properly.
According to a JoongAng Ilbo report, the South Gyeongsang Office of Education ordered the school to carry out school violence prevention measures and psychological counseling for students, but did not conduct a special audit into the case, an unusual move considering the loss of a student’s life.
“When school violence results in the loss of a life, it is an underlying principle to conduct a special audit into the students and class management after forming a special investigative team,” said an official at the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Only after the second fatal incident on Friday did the provincial education office demand the school board dismiss the school’s principal and take responsibility.
The chairwoman of the high school’s board is the wife of Ko Yeong-jin, the current chief of the South Gyeongsang education office. Ko also served as vice principal of the school prior to serving at the education office.
Experts have since called for more vigilance by schools in preventing school violence, especially during the first two months of the academic year.
“Reports of school violence soar in March and April because it is the time of a year that students are trying to position themselves at an upper level,” said Kim Mi-yeon, a director of the South Gyeongsang branch of the Foundation for Preventing Youth Violence, a nonprofit group. “So it requires schools to pay extra attention to violence during those two months.”
BY CHUN IN-SUNG, HWANG SUN-YOON[email@example.com]