Questioning student rights
The Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education has been hosting public hearings on the so-called “Student Rights Act.” The proposed draft released in December would end school-imposed restrictions on student attire and hair length and ban corporal punishment. It would also permit student rallies on school grounds if they are organized outside of school hours.
The details of this plan are inconsistent with our educational and institutional reality.
At a recent hearing, student representatives from grades eight to 10 advocated for the merits of the original proposal, insisting that it not be changed, and brushed aside the concerns about its repercussions raised by their parents and the other adults who were present.
Some of the students’ opinions were so extreme that they are cause for serious concern.
One middle school aged student speaker demanded that schools stop searching students’ belongings unless they have court-ordered warrants. The student argued that “random searches conducted under the pretext of discipline violate students’ personal freedom.” The teen speaker also said that forcing students to stay after school and study on their own was an act “equivalent to forcible detention.”
Another student said that “corporal punishment is inhumane.” The rhetoric is unbelievably radical and aggressive for such young minds.
Their rant against adults was equally hostile. “Adults say students are too ‘immature’ to be entitled to human rights acts, but how can they explain the existence of so much rancor in a society supposedly composed of ‘mature’ beings?”
Their sarcasm doesn’t end here. “If allowing certain hairstyles encourages delinquency, people in their 40s also should also be subject to hairstyle regulation,” one student said.
The students are members of the “Task Force for Student Participation,” an advocacy group for the Student Rights Act. Naturally, they are staunch champions of the proposed rights.
The Gyeonggi education authorities, however, are equally naive to sponsor a hearing with such an extreme group of students. A student rights act that ignores the realities of the school environment will only end in a zero-sum game. The provincial authorities must take a step back and reconsider the prudence of passing a student rights act.