Seoul requests to scrap students’ rights ordinance

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Seoul requests to scrap students’ rights ordinance

The controversial students’ rights ordinance that was passed in Seoul last month may be scrapped after the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education submitted a reconsideration request to the city council yesterday.

The students’ rights ordinance followed the banning of corporal punishment in schools by the school board elected in June 2010 and dominated by liberals. It includes some controversial clauses such as freedom of sexual preference and freedom to organize protests, and takes effect in March.

But its passage coincided with a rise in aggressive behavior by students and violence against teachers and among students. Violence in schools has become a national issue since the suicide of a bullied middle-schooler in Daegu Dec. 20.

Despite the passing of the ordinance by the Seoul Metropolitan Council, the city education office submitted a reconsideration request yesterday saying the ordinance clashes with existing laws and will diminish teachers’ authority in classrooms.

The students’ rights ordinance in Seoul follows similar ones passed in Gyeonggi and Gwangju. The request for a reconsideration of the ordinance is unprecedented and comes three weeks after the law was passed.

“The revised ordinance limits the decision making process of the education superintendent and also includes several clauses that haven’t yet been discussed in enough depth to be socially agreed upon,” the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education said.

If the city council decides to accept the reconsideration request, voting will be held during next month’s extraordinary session.

“Since school violence became a hot potato, the feeling about the students’ rights ordinance could have changed and it seems like the ordinance could be scrapped,” an official from the Seoul Metropolitan office of Education said.

Eight members of the Seoul Metropolitan Council released a statement yesterday demanding the city education office withdraw its request.

“It has been confirmed by the inspection office that inspects judicial affairs that the revised ordinance is not likely to clash with the existing laws,” they said.

Civic groups that supported the students’ rights law are up in arms about the reconsideration request.

The Students’ Rights Ordinance Enactment Movement Headquarters in Seoul said in a statement that “protecting students’ rights is a necessary condition to increase students’ willingness to study and for them to learn about human rights and democracy.”


By Yim Seung-hye [sharon@joongang.co.kr]
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