Kwak vows to enact the student rights law

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Kwak vows to enact the student rights law


곽노현의 학생인권조례 반대하는 시민단체 직무에 복귀한 곽노현 서울시교육감(왼쪽)이 20일 서울 태평로 서울시의회를 방문했다. 방문을 마친 곽 교육감이 학생인권조례안 제정에 반대하는 시민단체 회원들 앞을 지나 차량으로 향하고 있다. [뉴시스]

Seoul Education Chief Kwak No-hyun, who was convicted of bribing a rival, fined and released from custody Wednesday, returned to work yesterday and pushed forward with the controversial student rights ordinance.

“There’s no reason to delay proclaiming the ordinance, which was passed through many steps by the city council,” Kwak told members of Seoul’s city council yesterday. “I will sign the ordinance today and then proclaim it immediately.”

While the liberal superintendent was detained for four months on charges of bribing a former campaign rival to drop out of the race for education chief in 2010, Vice Superintendent Lee Dae-young, who is known to be a conservative, asked the city council to reconsider and withdraw the ordinance.

The ordinance was promoted by Kwak and passed in December, while he was in custody. But concurrently, the issue of violence and bullying in schools started nationwide soul-searching after the suicide of a bullied middle school boy in Daegu on Dec. 20. Some feared that the student rights ordinance, which allows students to stage rallies and prohibits corporal punishment, would weaken the authority of teachers and lead to an increase in bullying and violence.

Kwak was convicted Thursday of violating the election act, fined 30 million won ($26,400) and released from detention. He is appealing the conviction and will lose his post if the Supreme Court upholds the ruling.

On his first day back at work, Kwak convened an emergency meeting with senior officials of the Seoul Education Office and read a three-page statement. A group of conservative civic groups demanded his resignation outside the office.

“For the past 133 days, my body was in prison but it wasn’t that hard,” Kwak said, expressing his intention to resume stalled polices, such as expanding Seoul’s free school lunch program.

“There are things that were suspended for the past four months, which we struggled to achieve,” Kwak said. “I will put my consistent efforts on reopening every single one with a strong, calm attitude.”

On the issue of school violence, Kwak said, the students should have a say. “I can’t hear any voices of students in discussing the school violence problem,” Kwak said.

By Kim Hee-jin []
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