Schools should be safe zones

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Schools should be safe zones

It has been revealed that most teachers who commit sexual offenses, such as raping or touching a child, receive insignificant punishments and continue to work in the education sector, according to data obtained by Grand National Party lawmaker Park Young-ah and Democratic Party lawmaker Choi Young-hee from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

However, the sex crimes these teachers committed are certainly not insignificant.

A teacher in Gunsan, North Jeolla touched three girls’ breasts 63 times for a two-month period, including during school hours. A teacher in Gangwon sexually assaulted a student in his house, and a tipsy teacher in Seoul touched a student in a reading room. These types of acts damage children emotionally. But the education authority only gives teachers who commit sex-related crimes a slap on the wrist.

Among the 124 reported sexual crimes involving educators between 2006 and May 2009, only 21 resulted in a firing or dismissal.

There is reasonable suspicion that the disciplinary committee comprised of male public officials under the education bureau has established the level of punishment in an arbitrary manner and has consistently turned a blind-eye to its faults.

The aforementioned teacher in Gunsan was given a one-month suspension - even though he sexually assaulted his students habitually. This defies common sense.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology should endeavor to devise more restrictive punishment standards on a case-by-case basis for respective cities and provinces, which would help prevent penalties from being administered in an arbitrary and unpredictable fashion. In particular, the level of punishment for those who commit serious crimes must be sufficiently severe and include dismissal. The Juvenile Sex Protection Act stipulates that if someone commits sex crimes against children and juveniles and is sentenced to a fine or heavier punishment, the person should be forbidden from working at an educational institution, including schools. However, teachers who take advantage of their positions and commit sexual crimes on children are not subject to the provisions of this law.

In addition, we must conduct extensive research on the level of sexual crimes committed in schools.

As teachers have the authority to evaluate student records, many victims are afraid to speak out about sexual crimes that happen at school. At the very least, schools should be restructured to ensure that they are safety zones where sexual abuse doesn’t happen at all.
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