Making our schools safe

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Making our schools safe

Even schools are no longer safe havens for our children.

A sexual predator recently cruised onto an elementary school playground in broad daylight and snatched a girl, dragging her away to commit a terrible sexual offense.

School campuses can easily be breached because they are open to outsiders and there is a lack of surveillance.

Today, doors to main school buildings are left wide open during the day as well as after classes have ended. As a result, school grounds have become increasingly vulnerable to a host of crimes ranging from light offenses to major felonies.

In Seoul, nearly 90 percent of the city’s roughly 2,000 elementary, middle and high schools keep their campuses open to outsiders. Many have even removed the tall walls that once surrounded their perimeters in an attempt to provide locals in the neighborhood with free access to school facilities.

But school campuses in Korea have now become breeding grounds for gang fights, littering and booze-fueled parties.

In this context, we believe that the current policies of maintaining open school grounds can undermine safety and the learning activities of students.

In May of last year, for instance, a man in his 20s suffering a mental illness walked into a girls’ high school classroom during and after school hours, scaring students inside.

Over the past year, police have received reports of three attempts of sexual abuse on school grounds. To protect schools and students from outside dangers, there must be some limits to accessing school zones.

Outsiders who aren’t tied to school activities should not be able to freely enter schools, and time limits should be imposed on the use of playgrounds after classes end.

In the United States and Britain, many schools bar outsiders - including parents - from entering school grounds without an appointment. Japan also employs such a system. In France, schools only open their doors to outsiders for 20 minutes before and after classes.

In Korea, the administration councils of each school should be allowed to decide what kind of restrictions should be put on school access, depending on their individual needs.

The Korean Federation of Teachers’ Associations has already filed a petition with a Grand National Party lawmaker for a bill that would give teachers the power to protect their schools via various methods, including limiting outsider access.

It’s time for the National Assembly to take swift action on this issue.
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